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Bicycle Safety & Riding Laws in New Hampshire

Whether you’re in a large cosmopolitan district in New York, or a quiet rustic town in New Hampshire, you face the same risks of getting into an accident while riding a bicycle.  The risks of significant injury are especially heightened if you don’t wear protective gear.

The first recorded bicycle crash was in 1896 when a motor vehicle collided with a bicycle. Ever since 1932, there have been more than 50,000 recorded bicycle accidents which involved death for the riders.

Most of the time, bicycle accidents are caused by inattentiveness (like not checking for any passing car or bike before opening the car door), failure to signal, violation of traffic rules (such as making illegal turns or speeding), and substance abuse.  And it’s either the vehicle driver or the cyclist who may have been at fault.  And about 40% of all bike fatalities were due to alcohol abuse.  This is in fact the most common cause.

Fortunately, the state of New Hampshire has been showing awareness of the gravity of bicycle accidents.  In fact, the state ranked 14th out of 50 states in terms of bicycle friendliness and safety.  Due to prudent state enforcement of bicycle laws and education of cyclists, there were  less than five bicycle accident fatalities in New Hampshire in 2009, and zero incidence in 2012.  NH bicycle law link:  https://www.nh.gov/hsafety/publications/documents/bicycle.pdf

Here is a quick rundown of New Hampshire bicycle laws. 

Safety clearance between vehicles and bikes.  Every vehicle driver should put the cyclist’s welfare first on the road.  The driver must maintain a safe distance between himself and the cyclist, at least about 3 feet at 30 mph with an additional foot clearance for every additional 10 mph speed.

Protective headgear for cyclists.  A majority of bicycle accidents result in head and brain injury, and helmet usage can greatly reduce the chance of such injuries by as much as 85%.   All cyclists under the age of 16 must wear protective headgear, and those who are older than 16 are strongly advised to do so.

Cyclist priority on the road.  Aside from sharing the road with cyclists, motor vehicle drivers also need to yield to cyclists at intersections and turns, the same way that they yield to pedestrians.

Obeying traffic laws.  Bicycle riders are considered operators and therefore have to obey the same traffic rules, such as traffic light signals and road signs (ex. Slow Down, One Way, Train Crossing, etc.)  Cyclists must use hand signals if they want to turn or change lanes.  If the road has bike lanes, cyclists are required to use these and to follow the same direction as motor vehicles.

DUI laws.  Unlike some states, New Hampshire does consider bicycles as vehicles and therefore subject to DUI laws as with any other vehicle.  Getting arrested or involved in a bicycle accident due to substance abuse can land a cyclist in jail and be imposed severe fines.

Front light and rear reflectors.  These increase visibility of the bike, especially at night.  Using headlights will also help the cyclist avoid road hazards such as big rocks, crossing deer, and blind corners.

Seating.  Only one person at a time may operate a bike.  The cyclist is also prohibited from holding or carrying other objects (like a bag) if it impedes him from driving the bike safely.

And while it is not a requirement, wearing brightly colored clothing will certainly increase a cyclist’s visibility, especially during the early hours of the morning or evening.

If you or your loved one is injured in a bicycle accident while riding your bike in New Hampshire, you should contact an experienced injury lawyer in New Hampshire.  Our Bicycle accident lawyers are in the best position to help you with your case and recover just compensation for your injuries.

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