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We hear, all too often, of a car hitting a bicyclist and then zooming away from the scene of the accident without offering any help. This is hit and run.
But, what if a bicyclist causes an accident? Do hit and run laws apply to bicyclists?
Whether or not hit and run laws apply to bicyclists is dependent on whether or not the law considers a bicycle a vehicle. While the wording of the law may vary, most states consider bicycles to be vehicles and bicyclists drivers, required to follow all traffic laws.
In Alaska, the law defines a vehicle as "a device in, upon, or by which a person or property may be transported or drawn upon ... a highway or vehicular way or area." A bicycle would fit this description. So, a bicyclist would necessarily be required to follow the laws applicable to a vehicle. If this wasn't clear, the law also specifically states, "Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway has all the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle."
In California, section 21200 of the Vehicle Code states, "Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle...except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application."
So, the laws for vehicles apply to bicycles. This means hit and run laws apply to bicyclists too!
According to most hit and run laws, you absolutely must stop when an accident results in an injury to another person. In California, failure to do so can result in as much as a $10,000 fine and four years in prison.
If the accident involves only property damage, you must stop and notify the owner of the car of the damage. If the owner is not present, then you may leave a note with your identifying information, including name, address, phone number, license plate number (if applicable). States like New York and California also have the added requirement of notifying the local police department of the accident as soon as possible.
Bicyclists, if you are involved in an accident, you must stop at the accident. Hit and run laws do apply to you. If you have been charged with hit and run, an experienced local criminal defense attorney may be able to help.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.