Perhaps the most prevalent type of cycling crash my clients have suffered is the “Right Hook”. This is where the cyclist is riding straight ahead and a motor vehicle, on the cyclist’s left, suddenly turns right – directly into the path of the cyclist. A collision occurs when the cyclists can stopped fast enough, and the cyclist is usually injured.
Almost always, the “Right Hook” crash is the fault of the motor vehicle driver. Under Florida law, a motor vehicle must give cyclists three feet of space when passing. The motorist must only pass when the maneuver can be done safely. Often, the motorist passes too closely to the cyclist, and fails to give three feet. Then the motorist turns right before ever fully completing a pass of the cyclist. The motorist “cuts off” the cyclist. Just as bad, the motorist often fails to put on a right turn signal. However, since the motorist often hasn’t completed the pass, the cyclist may not have had time to see and react to a turn signal, even if the motorist used one.
There are three common varieties of the “Right Hook”. Sometimes, both the motorist and cyclist are moving straight ahead when the motorist suddenly turns right. In this situation, the motorist is usually traveling faster than the cyclists. A second “Right Hook” situation can occur at a stop light. After the motorist and cyclist stop and wait for the light to change, they then leave the intersection at the same time, but the motorist turns into the cyclist. A third “Right Hook” occurs when the cyclist passes slow moving vehicles on the right. The motorist pulls right at an intersection or driveway and the cyclists cannot stop in time and didn’t anticipate this danger.
There are several ways for the cyclist to avoid the dangers associated with the “Right Hook”. Cyclists should always pay attention for telltale signs of a motorist turning right. They must watch for turn signals. Cyclists should avoid riding on sidewalks, where motorists commonly are not expecting them. Cyclists should scan behind them frequently, either by turning one’s head or using a rear view mirror, so approaching motorists are visualized. Cyclists should not hug the curb. Riding farther left is often safer. Taking up the lane makes it harder for motorists to pass the cyclist and then cut the cyclist off. Also, try not to ride in the motorist’s blind spot. Be very, very careful if you attempt to pass traffic on their right. In Florida, you must give this traffic three feet. They are usually not expecting you.
BicycleSafe.com is a valuable resource for learning about safe cycling.