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Florida Changes Bicycle Safety Law in Effort to Reduce Fatal Accidents

Since COVID19, more people are riding bicycles. It is a great way to get exercise and fresh air. However, more bikes on the road mean more injuries for bike riders.


IT IS ESTIMATED THAT ALMOST 1000 PEOPLE DIE PER YEAR IN BIKE ACCIDENTS WITH AUTOMOBILES OR TRUCKS


Most vehicles vs bike accidents occur in rush hour, or just after dark when traffic conditions are most crowded and dangerous. 80 percent happen in urban areas with 63 percent on major roadways.

Astounding Bicycle vs Automobile Fatal Accident Statistics

8 times more men than women die in these incidents (Most are 50 years old or older)

25 percent who died were intoxicated.

37 percent of the automobile drivers were intoxicated in these deadly crashes.

61 percent who died were not wearing helmets.

It should be noted that these statistics were for the years 2010-2019. It is anticipated that there will be many more accidents and deadly accidents recorded in 2020 and 2021.

New Florida Law Passed to Address This Problem

The 2021 session of the Florida legislature passed a sweeping new law to address this deadly problem. Senate bill 950, entitled Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety came into effect July 1, 2021 and addresses many common safety issues. This bill revises requirements for drivers of motor vehicles overtaking bikes, turning bikes, riding configurations and cyclist rules at stop signs. It also required the Florida DOT to have an annual awareness and safety campaign and require the driver’s license exam to include bicycle safety questions. The bill passed unanimously and was signed by Governor DeSantis.

Cars Overtaking a Bike or E-bike.

Florida law governs the situation where a car overtakes a bike or e-bike. The law requires a car to remain a safe distance behind a cyclist before being able to pass them. It also requires at least three feet of clearance space when passing. It also legalizes driving safely and briefly to the left of the center in a no-passing zone to allow the safe passage of cyclists. This is a significant change to the law as it was previously not allowed.

The law prohibits right turns from a side road unless the cyclist is at least 20 feet away from the intersection. This prevents the “right hook” crash where the turning driver crashes into the bicyclist who is close to the intersection.

The law allows a cyclist turning left at an intersection to use the whole left turn lane. It requires the cyclist to stay close to the right edge of the roadway after crossing the intersection.

Single (or two) Cyclist and Narrow Lane

As you know, many areas now have dedicated bike lanes, which cyclists are required to use. However, in areas where there is no such lane, the cyclist must ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. This allows cars to safely travel past them. Similarly, if the bike lane is too narrow to accommodate cyclists riding abreast, the cyclist must ride single file. Unfortunately, many lanes are too narrow to accommodate two cyclists. Cyclists may only ride more than two abreast if riding on a dedicated bike path, not a bike lane on a roadway.

What About Groups of Cyclists on the Road?

Cycling groups are more common than ever. Such groups must come to a complete stop at a stop sign. Motor vehicles must allow one group of 10 to travel forward before moving through an intersection. It is hopeful that common courtesy would avoid this problem, but motorists must yield to cyclists in this manner or be in violation of the law.

Violation of the New Law

The new law states that a violation of any of these rules is non-criminal inflation, punishable as a moving violation. Presumably, a violation would include points on your driver’s license and negatively affect your insurance rates.

The law also provides for required safety programs and for at least 25 questions in the test bank for the driver’s license set to address bike and pedestrian safety.

Final Overview:

Now motorists MUST obey the 3 feet passing law
If a motorist cannot give 3 feet when passing, then the motorist must stay behind the cyclist until passing with at least 3 feet is possible.  Law enforcement previously complained about the difficulty in enforcing the 3 feet passing law.  This law improves enforcement.

Motorists CAN cross the center lane in a no-passing zone to safely pass a cyclist.
The law makes it legal for a motorist to briefly and safely cross the center lane in a no-passing zone, in order to pass a cyclist by 3 feet.  Previously, it was confusing as to whether motorists could cross a double yellow line to pass a cyclist.  Now it is clear that they can, rather than passing dangerously within 3 feet.

Motorists CANNOT turn right in front of a cyclist within 20 feet of any intersection.
The law states that a motorist, who is going in the same direction as a cyclist, may not make a right turn if the cyclist is within 20 feet of this intersection.  This is a designed safety provision to prevent “right hook” crashes by cyclists.

Bicyclists SHOULD use the left lane before making a left turn.
The law clarifies that bicyclists should use the left lane for motor vehicle traffic before attempting to make a left turn at an intersection.

Group riders should cross intersections with stop signs in groups of 10 or less. 
The law describes how cyclists should handle stop signs when participating in a group ride.  The law says that after coming to a complete stop, bicyclists can proceed through the intersection in a group of 10 or less at a time.  Vehicles must allow a group of 10 or less to get through the intersection before the vehicle moves forward.

 

Zarzaur Law, P.A. handles many cases involving serious injury from these devastating bicycle crashes and welcomes any laws or regulations that will improve safety. Violation of these rules is an important issue in cases involving bikes and cars and often requires a careful analysis to make your case.

Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.

If you’ve been the victim of an accident, it’s important that you don’t make any rash decisions. Put yourself in the best possible position to receive the justice you deserve. It is also important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe, or by requesting a free case review through our website.

Sources:

https://www.wpbf.com/article/florida-bicycle-safety-laws-in-effect-education/37036312

https://www.flsenate.gov/Committees/BillSummaries/2021/html/2502

https://www.tcpalm.com/story/opinion/contributors/2021/07/19/law-change-crossing-double-yellow-ok-protect-bike-riders-opinion/7929452002/

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2021/950

 

 

 

O.J. Simpson Trial: Different Results in Criminal, Civil Courts

The PeoplevsO.J. SimpsonI remember being a first-year law student at the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama and rushing home from morning class to plant myself in front of the TV to watch the O.J. Simpson trial.  My fellow law school classmates and myself had just been introduced to the legal profession in our collective first year of legal education that included a criminal law class which made our shared interest in the People v. O.J. Simpson all the more interesting.

Eventually, our individual interest and private viewing evolved into group Court TV watch parties.  All of us had our privately held beliefs in who we felt was guilty or innocent.  It was also nice hearing the “new ” (to us) classroom legal jargon being used in the drama that was being played out before us all on the TV.  Reflecting back, we knew very little about law and even less about criminal procedure and evidence.  This did not, however, stop us from providing what we thought was insightful critiques of the differing lawyer styles and soundness of the legal arguments being made.

We were even intrigued with the sidebar conferences, long evidentiary arguments and other parts of the proceedings that most found less than stimulating. So for my law school classmates and myself, this incredibly popular appeal of this tragedy was enhanced by our new found love of the law.  For those of us who were at school espousing to be future trial lawyers, this case had even more appeal since it was a wonderful contrast in trial lawyer styles.  On one side you had the methodical and conservative style of the seasoned prosecutor.  On the other side (and other end of the spectrum) was the flamboyant and artful criminal defense lawyer.  The prosecutors were adept at using traditional demonstrative aids like overhead projectors and flip charts while the defense lawyers were quite comfortable using more technically savvy methods. 

horse racing

After each witness, we all had comments about the effectiveness of the questioning, the impact of the exhibits used and whether or not the witness was good for the side who called him/her.  It was hard, at times, to not sink to a more tabloid level in critiquing the appearance and apparel of the lawyers.  Their courtroom behaviors seemed to mimic their styles nearly perfectly each day.    Marcia Clark was usually wearing demur and basic navy and white skirt and blouse.  Then, leagues apart, Johnny Cochran was pulling in clothing colors and styles that pushed the edge of acceptable fashion.

The FX television series the People v. O.J. Simpson has revived the feverish interest in this case.  This time, however, is a bit different for me.  Now, I am viewing these scenes in the context of as a long time practicing lawyer and somewhat of a seasoned and moderately successful trial lawyer.  Also very different now is the context in which I see this story.  Following recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and Charleston, South Carolina, the idea that members of the police force can intentionally kill a suspect makes it easily plausible that the same officer could plant evidence.  The other interesting thing about this series is the “behind the scenes” happenings of each character.  The decision to use the glove, calling Mark Furman despite his history, the reason Chris Darden was brought in, that Marcia Clark is a chain smoker, that Johnny Cochran had been arrested for domestic violence in the past and that Robert Kardashian was a nobody whose children would become the most famous (infamous) reality TV stars in the history of this country.   

I thought that the initial scene of the series showing the Rodney King beating was quite telling.  Being a white male from the Southeast US, it never occurred to me at that time that the Rodney King incident would have any effect on the O.J. Simpson case.  Looking back, how could it not.  At the time of the verdict, I certainly was surprised but was not shocked.  I felt that the lead detective’s lying under oath about any issue was a death nail on all.  Then again, I was always looking for a way for O.J. to not be guilty since my personal predisposition is to believe that all people are good and would never cause such harm.

I remember being embarrassed when news programs would show the difference in reaction to the verdict between predominantly white crowds versus African American audiences.  Not fully appreciating the different perceptions that existed then in regards to police behavior prevented me from fully understanding the disparity in reaction to the verdict.  Today, I get it completely.  I think recent events of blatant racially motivated police brutality captured on video have gone a long way of shaking up those of us who live long lives and never appreciate the horrible treatment some of us endure daily from the police.

The prosecution made some pretty significant mistakes:  relying on Mark Furman as the most critical witness without fully vetting his past, allowing OJ to try the glove on for the first time in front of the jury, failing to appreciate the impact of the Rodney King case on the jury, and finally treating this prosecution just like all the rest in the office. 

oj-simpson

The defense strategy was near perfect–use the tremors of racial intolerance associated with the King case and parlay it to assist in the acquittal of O.J.  Their execution was sometimes clumsy given the number and size of the egos at counsel’s table for O.J. but nearly everything they did at the trial worked and worked very well. 

The thing that was most illuminating for me following the verdict was how different the American experience is for its citizen depending upon their race.  I am glad that I was able to make this personal observation about my misconceptions.  Our country, however, has made very little progress on this issue since the white Bronco chase.  This is somewhat amazing since it requires that we as a society “table” the issue until we have to face it again.  When small cameras started to be added to phones, we then had the ability to witness what our African American brothers and sisters experience daily.  Now, we cannot deny or escape the reality of unfairness that exists. 

Interestingly, the civil case that was tried a couple years after the criminal case was over had a different verdict.  The civil jury sitting in the same Los Angeles County Courthouse found OJ Simpson liable for the wrongful death of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman and awarded millions of dollars to the families of both claimants.  Some may wonder how can this be the case?  Civil lawsuits involve awards of money and do not involve depriving someone of their basic constitutional rights.  For this reason, the burden of proof in a civil case is much lower than in a criminal case.  In a civil case, the plaintiff must prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence, which is just over half.  In a criminal case, however, the prosecution must prove its case beyond any reasonable doubt.  Instead of being just over half, beyond any reasonable doubt is a much higher than just over half and requires nearly 100% accurate standard.  This is why the same case can be tried in criminal courts and civil courts and there be different results. 

When I heard the series would be ending next month, it was a little disappointing as time seems to stop when the drama plays out some 20 plus years following the verdict.  Happy TV watching….

How to Find the Best Personal Injury Lawyer

So you, a family member or loved one is the victim of a reckless driver or person. So, what do you do to find the best possible personal injury lawyer for your situation?

First, there is nothing more annoying than the barrage of tacky lawyer advertisements. I can say without question that choosing your lawyer based upon the number of lawyer advertisements that you see is not the way to choose your lawyer for a case. The reason for this is simple. Simply because a lawyer or firm has a good marketing plan does not translate into the equally effective legal services. This does not mean that quality lawyers do not advertise but simply means that it is not enough to select a lawyer based upon the number of advertisement space their firm purchases. Any lawyer that passes the bar exam can advertise for personal injury cases. It is not required that they have any experience with even one prior personal injury case much less a successful trial.

Second, Florida makes it fairly easy to tell which lawyers are most qualified in a particular area of law including civil cases which include personal injury cases. You see Florida offers lawyers the ability to become board certified in various areas of law. This process however is optional and requires substantial time, experience, testing and peer review. Lawyers who are Board Certified in Florida can refer to themselves as “specialists” or “experts” in that particular area of law. Civil trial specialists are those board certified lawyers in Florida who specialize in filing and prosecuting lawsuits through trial. These lawsuits include personal injury and wrongful death cases. So, you may ask why this is important? This is important since this designation separates every lawyer who can call themselves a personal injury lawyer from those that actually handle these cases from start to finish (a jury trial). For example, when someone goes to medical school and graduates with a MD degree they are not quite qualified to call themselves a brain surgeon even though they are, in fact, Doctors.

Third, it currently cost $410.00 to file a lawsuit in Florida. This does not, however, make you an experienced lawyer in Florida. It is how you handle the case after filing and through trial that makes the difference. Ask the lawyer who is handling your case (sometimes not the same person who is on the Billboard) if he/she has any jury verdicts in the last year that are impressive victories for their clients? Ask them details about what role they played in that case. If you do not get good answers to those questions, then move on. Experience counts in this field. It counts because just like anything else in the world, your record counts and matters to all involved. It matters to you as the client since you want the expert who knows his/her field. It matters to the person who causes your injury as they need to know that the lawyer coming after them is known for not giving up and has taken many folks and companies to the bitter end. It matters to the insurance company involved since they work in this field every day and they become familiar with which lawyers tend to always settle their cases. They also know that there are certain lawyers who they have taken to trial and then were hit with verdicts well over their policy limits. If the lawyer you have hired to work on your case has never made an insurance company “sweat” because they underestimated or under-evaluated a claim only to have a jury slam them, then you may not have the right person.

In sum, in selecting a lawyer for your case. Do not rely just on advertisements. Find a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer and then ask that person about the exact track record in the type of case that you have. Ask for specifics, do not assume that a lawyer is qualified simply because they work for someone who is.

Here is a direct link to Florida Board Certified Lawyershttp://www.floridabar.org/wps/portal/flbar/home/directories/certifications/!ut/p/a1/04_Sj9CPykssy0xPLMnMz0vMAfGjzOINjIxcDf2DDbwszAOcDBx9fdzMnIOMjN1djIEKIpEV-Du7uQAVmLj4mIT4GfqaGhGn39fS0NHQxAKowMTRzcAzzDzM0zzE0MjRz5RI-3EARwNC-sP1o1CVYPEBWAEOJxr4G-JXAPYDxArcjizIDQ2NMMj0THdUVAQAJklOYg!!/dl5/d5/L2dBISEvZ0FBIS9nQSEh/