On Average 16 Cyclists Are Killed in Orange County, CA Each Year
In 2018, 17-year-old Jesus Romero died while bicycling in Santa Ana. Romero’s life was just starting when it was tragically taken from him. Arthur Kendrick Jr., age 84, also died in June when he was hit by a vehicle in the Lake Forest area. Kendrick was the second of 14 children. He served in the military and attended Johnson Chapel AME Church. He worked as a crossing guard and was married to Perma Lee. He had a daughter, two sons, and several grandchildren. No matter your age, if you are hit and killed by a car, your life has ended too soon. Unfortunately, due to distracted drivers, the number of cyclists losing their lives to automobiles is increasing in Orange County, and throughout California.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, reports over 857 cyclist deaths across the country in 2018. This is far too many deaths caused by oftentimes preventable circumstances. National Bike Month should always include information pertaining to a five year old law that states drivers must leave a three foot space between a vehicle and bicycle when passing.
Bill Sellin, a volunteer cycling advocate, says that he’s never seen the law enforced or used by anyone. Sellin isn’t impressed with the law in the first place. He recommends cyclists take the lane they’re legally allowed to use to prevent injuries and stay safe. Bicyclists must worry about car doors opening and debris if they venture too far to the right of the roadside and they cannot be seen by drivers. Driver perception sweeps 17-degrees, so the farther to the right you are, the less likely the motorist will notice you.
In 2019, Orange County officials seemed to finally motion for stricter cycling laws after a firefighter lost his life. Costa Mesa Fire & Rescue Captain Mike Kreza was hit by a driver on Alicia Parkway in Mission Viejo on an early November morning while riding his bike. He was survived by a wife and three daughters. Kreza was an outdoor enthusiast who was training for the 112-mile cycling portion of the Ironman Arizona competition.
The site where Kreza was struck and killed by an automobile is lined with crosses, flowers and other memorials that serve as a painful reminder of the accident that took his life only a few short months ago. Locals in the Southern California area who are familiar with the incident feel the pain every time they drive past the memorial.
These white bikes commonly known as “ghost bikes” are popping up throughout the United States. An artist from San Francisco raised money on Kickstarter for “The Ghost Bike Project” where she would travel the United States and document the white bike memorials of fallen bicyclists.
Aggressive driving is to blame for many of the bicycle accidents in Orange County, California and throughout the U.S. As reported by AAA, aggressive driving is a major concern for road users. But, it’s not so much aggressive driving as the drivers’ attitude and lack of civility. Most drivers are in a hurry and feel more entitled to the roadway than cyclists.
A few extra minutes and a bit of patience isn’t asking too much to keep everyone safe. If improved driving habits saves the life of just one person, it is worth making changes in your driving habits. Slow down. Wait Until it is your turn to drive. Pay attention to the roadways and understand that everyone else out there is on a mission to get to their desired location, just as you are.
May is National Bike Month, which will be celebrated in Southern California and across the U.S. This month serves as a time when educators help people better understand the value of bike riding. Educators also offer cyclists tips that keep them safe on the roadways. Although bike accidents aren’t as common as motor vehicle accidents, the aftermath is much worse when they do occur. A cyclist lacks the protection that a car driver receives from a seatbelt and a metal frame to protect them on impact. Although helmets certainly help, head injuries are common in bike accidents.
In 2018, 14 bicyclists were killed in Orange County. Many of the accidents occurred along Pacific Coast Highway, although Newport Beach and Laguna Canyon which lure in cyclists are equally dangerous. This number may seem small to some, but it still represents the loss of too many Orange County residents due to the negligence of drivers. An AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study revealed that around 80% of drivers had expressed some sort of road rage at least once in the previous year. Furthermore, studies reveal that more than half of all crashes involve a driver who has performed a potentially dangerous aggressive action.
Bike accidents have claimed the lives of an average of 16 people each year in Orange County. When Kreza was among the numbers, people promised change. And it seemed that change would come for several weeks after. Yet in the next month, three more cyclists lost their lives. Eight days after Kreza died, Kong Zhao Wei was killed in a car accident in Irvine. Charles Kam was killed in Huntington Beach. Leslie Valdovionos was fatally hit near her Santa Ana home.
Since the beginning of 2020, three fatal accidents have claimed the lives of cyclists in the OC. Those people include Long Beach resident Paul Smith, who died on Pacific Coast Highway. Some people think that the PCH is too dangerous for a biker to ride on. However, there is no law against riding on the PCH, and the scenic views lure in cyclists from across the country. It is possible for drivers and bikers to co-exist on the roadways. Countries such as the Netherlands prove that it is possible. But, behavioral changes are necessary if that will ever happen.
Distracted driving is a problem in Laguna Beach and Orange County. It is drivers who do not take the roads and its potential dangers of texting and driving seriously that cause fatal biker accidents. No one ever plans an accident to happen, hence the name. That is why it’s so important to take extra precautions to prevent a car accident or bike accident. Cyclists can protect themselves by using BRIGHT lights (red lights on the rear, and lights on the front of the bike) and using them even during the day. The bright lights alert drivers to the cyclists presence hundreds of meters before the driver passes the cyclist. Drivers can work on putting the phone down when they are driving, and giving cyclists at least three feet of space when passing.
Awareness is equally important to prevent accidents. On May 20, 2020 the Ride of Silence event takes place. Thousands of people from Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and other cities in California and across the country will participate in a ride to raise awareness for bikers. The ride requires reflectors or lights on bikes and all riders must wear helmets. The ride always begins at 7:00 PM world wide on the third Wednesday of May. This ride brings awareness to bike accidents and teaches people how they can be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem. It is a fun, educational event for all ages that is sure to do some good to the community.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed while cycling due to the negligence of a driver, contact an experienced
Orange County personal injury attorney.
Disclaimer: As the result of secondary sources used to complete this post, Chudleigh Law P.C. has not independently verified all facts in this story. If you read something that in inaccurate please contact Chudleigh Law P.C. and we will correct the inaccuracy. As members of the Orange County and the broader Southern California community, we hope everyone in our community is safe and protected. We cover events in this blog as a way to offer support to the victims, and raise awareness to increase the safety of all drivers in Orange County, and throughout California. However, this information should not be construed as legal advice.