Bring up the topic of drivers to 10 bicyclists in Orange County and chances are, the majority of them will complain about the drivers. Bring up the topic of bicyclists to 10 drivers in Orange County and chances are, the majority of them will complain about the bicyclists.
For whatever reason, the relationship between drivers and bicyclists in many parts of Orange County is less than copacetic – and sometimes even a little hostile.
Tragically, two weeks ago a 30-year-old Fountain Valley bicyclist named Shaun Eagleson was killed by a drunk driver. The drunk driver was 23-year-old Huntington Beach resident Neil Stephany.
Stephany was driving drunk at around 5 pm in Newport Beach when he hit Eagleson who was riding on his bicycle. Stephany did not stop at the scene, but instead sped off. Eagleson died at the hospital and Stephany was arrested a few hours after the incident. He has been charged with murder and felony hit-and-run. You can read more about it here.
Fact: California law allows a person to be charged with murder if they kill someone while driving drunk after their first DUI conviction. Stephany pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drunk driving charge in 2011 and has several prior drug charges.
Before we get into the purpose of this article, safety tips for bicyclists and drivers, let us recap the events of the accident to point out that the sad statistics about young drivers still ring true:
- Driver was 23 years old (teens and young adults are by far the most dangerous demographic behind the wheel)
- Driver was male (males tend to be worse than females, probably because they are bigger risk-takers)
- Drunk driving (we probably don’t need to say anything more about the dangers of drunk driving)
As you can see, we still have a lot of work to do to combat these statistics and create safe drivers in Orange County. At Safety 1st Driving School, we are doing everything we can to offer the most effective and comprehensive driving lessons to teenagers, but we need your help as well. Parents and adults need to model good behavior behind the wheel – that means driving safely and cautiously, obeying traffic laws, avoiding distractions while driving (that means no texting!), and being a patient and courteous driver.
Teenagers will always be teenagers. Developmentally, they are not like adults and are notorious for making poor decisions and thinking they are invincible. So we have to work with what we’ve got, and so we urge parents to be very involved in your teen’s driving experience; give them rules, boundaries, and consequences; and communicate with them about driving safety, maneuvers, and issues that arise.
Safety Tips for Bicyclists and Drivers
Also check out this article by BicycleSafe.org, “How to Not Get Hit by Cars”, which highlights a number of common scenarios and how cyclists can respond to them.
As far as drivers go, you need to do your part to keep cyclists safe as well. Here are some tips for you:
- Check side and rear view mirrors frequently.
- If parked along a curb, check your side and rear view mirrors and look over your shoulder before opening your door to avoid hitting a passing cyclist.
- Obey posted speed limits.
- Be extra careful driving at night.
- Avoid distractions. Cyclists can quickly come out of nowhere.
- Be respectful of cyclists, even if you feel they are hogging the road. Give them adequate space and even change lanes if possible. You may not want to give up your space out of principle, but it’s not worth it if it could endanger a cyclist’s life.
- Don’t like cyclists? Get over it. We have to share the roads, and your disdain is not productive. Set a good example for your kids and other drivers around you by being patient and courteous.