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More Detailed Police Reports for Bicycle Crashes Could Improve Safety for All

In the blog post below, we mentioned the case of Frankie Frankovis and her fight to get a police report after she was involved in a collision with a jaywalker. We are happy to report that the loophole in Austin law that required a collision to involve a motor vehicle before it could properly be considered a “crash” has now been closed.

As of tomorrow, May 1, 2015, crashes between people on bikes and non-motor vehicles have been reclassified and will now require a police report. Specifically, this includes collisions involving people on bikes that occur in a public place when at least one person sustains an injury and “the incident occurred as a result of a potential criminal act, violation of the Transportation Code, violation of a City Ordinance, or the actions of another party.”

Find out more at Austin On A Bike & Austin Chronicle.

We are excited about this change and hope Austin as well as other cities will continue to take measures to provide for more accurate reporting when accidents occur.

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Deformation of bicycle after accident on the streetWhen you’re involved in a crash, the police are usually called. As part of their duties, they write a police report detailing exactly what happened during the crash. This police report is vital for future insurance claims and potential lawsuits. It is equally important that responding officers do an Actual investigation of the site of the crash and document those findings so that at a later time evidence is preserved as to time, speed, distance and other objective data necessary for both criminal and civil cases.

all too often when a crash involves a bicycle, the police report lacks vital details. Studies show that most current crash reports involving bicycles are handwritten or drawn by the police officer, and most police departments don’t have specific diagrams or codes to use when a person on a bicycle is involved. Many times these drawings are not even detailed enough to show which side of a bike was hit. The framework that applies when two cars crash is simply not accurate enough to properly detail an accident when a bicycle is involved in the crash.

Sadly, sometimes police policies and/or state legislation is also simply not up-to-date on this matter, such as was recently the case in Austin when Frankie Frankovis had to fight to even get a police report when she was involved in a collision with a jaywalker. This was because the police did not consider it a “crash” since it involved a person on a bike and a person walking or running, rather than a person on a bike and a motor vehicle.

Modern technology can help make crash reporting by police officers easier and more detailed than has ever been possible in the past. For example, officers could use electronic tablets and categorize crashes with codes specific to people riding bicycles. Using this type of crash reporting makes it much easier to ascertain important details after the fact that might otherwise be lost, such as whether the person on the bike was riding within a bike lane, or sharrow lane or if the bike lane was clear of debris, or if cars were parked in the lane when the person on the bike was hit..

If all cities and states would call on the police to improve the reporting process, not only would the individuals involved in the crash be helped, but the information could also be put into a national database to help study bicycle crashes. This information could be invaluable when devising future safety measures and legislation by helping people to better understand how and why most of these types of accidents occur.

On a more local level, this type of detailed information could help cities note how and why crashes are happening and if they are happening more often at specific sites. All of the information gathered can be used toward the important goal of improving safety for everyone-people on bikes, people walking, people in cars, and other motor vehicles.

We will rant in our next blog about the importance of the vulnerable road user ordinance and statutes that aim to protect people on bikes, on foot, mobility impaired, construction workers, people on horseback and other vulnerable road users. The law as written is violated by necessity everyday when bike lanes are placed next to bus lanes without proper distances for the bus operator or truck to provide the required space to vulnerable road users, and how we imagine these laws can be improved. If you have your own ideas, please comment below or send them to us at lenore@cyclistlaw.com.

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