By Michael Bluejay
[Editor's note: This article was adapted with permission from Michael Bluejay's "How to Not Get Hit by Cars" at bikesafe.com.]
Skater about to crash into a car door
This article explains real ways you can get hit by cars and real ways to avoid getting hit. It's a far cry from normal skate safety guides, which will tell you little more than to wear your helmet and follow the law. The fact of the matter is that wearing a helmet will do absolutely nothing to prevent you from getting hit by a car!
Sure, helmets might help you if you get hit (and it's a good idea to wear one). But your No. 1 goal should be to avoid getting hit in the first place.
Skaters, like bicyclists, are sometimes killed in car accidents even if they are wearing helmets. Ironically, some of those skaters would still be alive if they had followed the guidelines in this article.
Some skaters assume they are safe if they obey traffic laws. But following the law is not enough ... and in fact, can sometimes get you into trouble.
Here's an example: The law tells you to stay as far to the right as possible. But if you skate too far to the right, someone opening the door of a parked car might clobber you ... or a driver backing out of a driveway may not see you.
This article doesn't focus on the law. It focuses on how to avoid getting hit by cars. Now let's see how to do this.
Collision Type, No. 1 - The Right Cross
This is one of the most common ways to get hit ... or almost get hit.
A car is pulling out of a side street, parking lot or driveway on the right. Either you're in front of the car and the car hits you ... or the car pulls out in front of you and you slam into it.
How to avoid this collision:
1. Wear a headlight. If you're skating at night, you should absolutely use a front headlight. Even for daytime skating, a bright white light that has a flashing mode can make you more visible to motorists who might otherwise Right Cross you. Look for the new LED headlights which last ten times as long on a set of batteries as old style lights.
2. Yell "Hey!" You may feel awkward yelling, but it's better to be embarrassed than to get hit.
3. Slow down. If you can't make eye contact with the driver (especially at night), slow down enough that you're able to completely stop if you have to. Sure, it's inconvenient, but it beats getting hit. Doing this has saved my life on many occasions.
4. Ride further left. Notice the two blue lines "A" and "B" in the diagram above. You're probably used to riding in "A", very close to the curb, because you're worried about being hit from behind. But take a look at the car. When that motorist is looking down the road for traffic, he's not looking in the bike lane or the area closest to the curb; he's looking in the MIDDLE of the lane, for other cars. The farther left you are (such as in "B"), the more likely the driver will see you.
There's an added bonus here: if the motorist doesn't see you and starts pulling out, you may be able to go even FARTHER left or speed up to get out of the way before impact.
In short, this gives you some options. Because if you stay all the way to the right and they pull out, your only "option" may be to run right into the driver's side door.
Of course, there's a tradeoff. Skating to the far right makes you invisible to the motorists ahead of you at intersections, but skating to the left makes you more vulnerable to the cars behind you. Your actual lane position may vary depending on how wide the street is, how many cars there are, how fast and how close they pass you, and how far you are from the next intersection.
On fast roadways with few cross streets, you'll skate farther to the right, and on slow roads with many cross streets, you'll skate farther left.
(Next time: Collision Type No. 2: The Door Prize)
Michael Bluejay is an award winning writer and publisher of several popular websites devoted to a wide range of subjects, including saving electricity, house buying and bicycle safety. He developed his bike safety web site, from which this article was adapted, to provide advice to help cyclists avoid getting hit by cars. "But of course, cyling will never be 100 percent safe, and I can't guarantee you won't get hit by a car, even if you follow all the advice in this article," he says. "Naturally, I believe you will be much less likely to suffer a collision if you follow the recommendations. But ultimately, you are responsible for your own safety." ... Obviously, the same thing can be said for inline skating.
Copyright © 2010 Inline Planet