The sad reality is that children make up the majority of those involved in both bicycle and car accidents. When a child is on a bike, an adult has an obligation to take extra care when driving; adults must exercise an additional duty of care to ensure the safety of children. Bicycle injuries are typically worse for children, not just because kids usually can’t be seen by motorists, but because they don’t have the same capacity to make split second decisions that could prevent injury.
Regardless of whether a bicycle accident involves an adult or a child, it almost always stands that the motorist is liable and at fault. The driver of the motor vehicle has an increased duty to exercise reasonable care when they approach intersections or areas filled with pedestrians. When children are present, the liability of the motorist increases. Since children often don’t have the ability to anticipate how their actions can be dangerous, those who are behind the wheel of a vehicle have an increased responsibility to think fast. Drivers must pay excessive attention at all times to compensate for the lack of a child’s comprehension skills during harmful situations.
Although “reasonable care” seems like a very subjective term, when it comes to automobiles it means that motorists have to compensate for situations that are within their control. If they approach an intersection, they have to assume all the unpredictable possibilities that children and bicyclists can cause. Since they are navigating something tantamount to a loaded weapon, the pedestrian almost always has the right of way, even when signs indicate that the vehicle can go ahead and drive.
As a motorist, it is important for you to understand that when you see a crossing sign or bicyclists—especially a child—when you are in a residential area, your attention needs to be heightened to avoid being at fault. If you aren’t aware of the actions of others in the intersection, you can’t simply claim the right of way. If there are pedestrians involved, especially children, then you have to exert reasonable care to ensure their safety. If the accident could have been avoided by the motorist taking the appropriate steps, then the motorist will always be at fault.
Contributory Negligence and Children in Bicycle Accidents
When a bicycle accident involves either an adult or a child, the driver’s actions are typically examined first. It is presumed that if the motorist was paying closer attention, the accident could have been prevented, meaning that the ominous almost always lies on the person behind the wheel, not the person operating the bicycle. It is assumed that someone driving a car should anticipate the unpredictability of children, and they should take precautions to ensure that they avoid any injuries that could result from poor decision-making on the part of a minor.
Tender Years Doctrine
A auto accident lawyer in Queens can confirm that the laws vary by state, when it comes to children being involved in an accident, motorists are typically held liable due to something called the “tender years” doctrine. It states that children ages four to fourteen years of age bear little responsibility, if any, for accidents. Many states apply something called “contributory negligence,” which means that motorists are partially responsible for accidents that involve young children because they’re expected to anticipate the need for heightened safety.
So, if you are driving in a car and see bicyclists, especially those younger than fourteen-years-old, it is your responsibility to drive slowly and anticipate erratic movements and poor decisions to protect yourself from liability.
There is no way to protect yourself when someone does something erratically, but when it comes to kids, you should always assume they will for your own liability. A motorist has the responsibility to take reasonable care when behind the wheel. That reasonable care is heightened when children are around. So, if you are in a residential area or at crossroads where you see bicyclists of any age, it is in your best interest to take special care, look around, and pay close attention to the actions of those around you.