Hawaii actively promotes cycling as a sustainable and healthy means of transportation. It has demonstrated its support for cycling by providing infrastructure and initiatives that benefit riders. Hawaii also highlights the importance of safety on the road. The state has enacted bicycle accident laws that outline the rights and responsibilities of cyclists and motorists when sharing the road.
Every year, Hawaii witnesses close to 6,000 non-fatal injuries that result from traffic accidents. Around 55% of crash victims admitted to hospitals fall into the category of "vulnerable road users," which includes bicyclists. One of the most common causes of bicycle accidents is distracted driving. Additionally, 16 of 17 bicycle accident fatalities over a five-year period in Hawaii involved collisions with motor vehicles.
Understanding the state laws and regulations that commonly come into play in bicycle accident cases is essential for both the victims and the parties responsible for the resulting damage, injuries, or deaths.
Bicycle Registration and Licensing in Hawaii
In Hawaii, all bicycles with a wheel diameter of 20 inches or more are required to be registered and licensed. Registration is optional for bicycles with wheels less than 20 inches in diameter. However, it is recommended to also register these bicycles, as registration can help facilitate the return of stolen bicycles if they are recovered. When purchasing a new bicycle, the registration process is handled by the dealer at the point of sale.
Bicyclists should keep in mind the following points when registering their bikes in Hawaii:
Provide the serial number of the bike. The serial number is typically located under the bottom bracket or on the rear dropout of the bicycle.
Include a description of the bike.
Provide a bill of sale when registering your bike. This serves as proof of ownership and can be obtained from the seller.
If you do not have a bill of sale, there may be an additional form to fill out during the registration process.
Hawaii Right-of-Way Law
Cyclists who ride on roadways in Hawaii have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicles. They need to exercise caution when sharing the road with other users. To enhance the safety and convenience of bikers, numerous bike paths and lanes have been designated throughout the state. It is highly recommended and, in some cases, even mandated that cyclists utilize these designated bikeways whenever available.
In Hawaii bicycle law, "right of way" refers to the legal priority granted to a particular road user to proceed or have precedence over other road users in specific traffic situations. Bicyclists are required by law to ride as close to the right curb or on the shoulder as reasonably possible when they are traveling at a slower speed than the surrounding traffic.
Cyclists are permitted to ride their bikes on sidewalks, provided they maintain a speed of 10 miles per hour or less. However, they need to prioritize pedestrian safety by yielding the right of way to pedestrians at all times. Bike riding on sidewalks is prohibited in business districts and other areas where municipal laws expressly forbid it.
Hawaii Laws on Bicycle Safety Equipment
Hawaii's laws on bicycle safety equipment outline the necessary gear and equipment that cyclists must have to ensure their safety while riding on public roads. These regulations aim to enhance visibility, promote safe interactions with other road users, and reduce the risk of accidents.
Wearing a properly fitted helmet is crucial for the safety of bicyclists. In fact, it is the most effective measure a cyclist can take to reduce the risk of brain injuries and fatalities in collisions. Helmets act as a protective barrier, absorbing the impact and distributing the force across a larger area, thus reducing the severity of head injuries.
This gear must be properly fitted to provide maximum protection. A helmet that is too loose or too tight may not provide the intended level of safety. It should sit snugly on the head, covering the forehead and sitting level without tilting backward or forward. The straps should be securely fastened under the chin, with enough tension to keep the helmet in place.
Lights and Reflectors
Bicycles in the state must use lights and reflectors during the period from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise.
Front lights - Bicycles must have a white light mounted at the front, facing forward. This light illuminates the path ahead for the cyclist, helping them navigate safely. It also serves as a signal to oncoming traffic, making the cyclist more visible. The headlight should be visible from a distance of 500 feet.
Rear lights - At the rear, bicycles should have a red light that faces backward. This light acts as a warning signal to drivers and pedestrians approaching from behind, indicating the presence of a cyclist on the road. It enhances visibility and helps prevent rear-end collisions. Rear lights should be visible from at least 600 feet when a car uses a low beam.
Reflectors - Bicycles should be equipped with reflectors to increase visibility from different angles. Commonly, reflectors are placed on the front, rear, sides, and pedals of the bicycle.
Handlebars and Brakes
The state also requires bicycles to be equipped with brakes that can stop within 25 feet at a speed of 10 miles per hour on dry, level, clean pavement. Handlebars should fit cyclists correctly and should not rise above their shoulders.
In addition, the frame of the bicycle should be the right size for the rider. A properly fitted frame enables the rider to stop, support, and restart the bike with ease. When seated on the bike, the rider's feet should be able to touch the ground comfortably while maintaining proper balance.
Hawaii acknowledges the vulnerability of cyclists and other road users, and therefore, drivers who cause injury or death to a cyclist due to negligence can face fines and charges.
Hawaii Laws on Distracted Riding
Distracted riding is one of the most common causes of bicycle accidents in the state. Strict regulations have been put in place to discourage reckless behavior and promote responsible cycling practices.
Operating any type of vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is prohibited in Hawaii. This restriction also applies to bicycles, emphasizing the importance of responsible cycling practices. Riding while intoxicated not only endangers the cyclist but also poses a significant risk to others on the road. Drunk bicyclists can face fines of up to $250. However, the consequences can be more severe for young cyclists. Cyclists under 21 years of age may risk losing their driver's license – or experiencing delays in obtaining one – for up to a year as a result of cycling while intoxicated.
Additionally, wearing headphones and engaging in phone conversations are discouraged for bike riders. These activities take their attention away from the road, reducing their ability to detect and respond to critical situations promptly. Even a momentary lapse in focus can lead to accidents, endangering not only distracted cyclists but also pedestrians or drivers who may be impacted by their actions.
Is Hawaii a No-Fault State for Bicycle Accidents?
Yes, Hawaii is a no-fault state. This means that if a cyclist is injured in a collision with a car, he is entitled to no-fault insurance benefits for his medical expenses, regardless of who caused the accident. The auto insurance company of the motor vehicle driver involved in the accident will cover the first $10,000 in medical bills.
If a motor vehicle strikes a cyclist, the damage is typically severe. Because cyclists have less protection than drivers, they have a greater chance of being seriously injured or killed in an accident.
However, not all accidents involving a motor vehicle are the driver’s fault. In some cases, the cyclist may be to blame if he has been negligent or guilty of breaking traffic rules.
The insurance companies of the parties involved in the accident or the courts determine who is at fault. If the cyclist is found to have contributed to the accident, then he can be held liable for the damages that the victims suffered.
If multiple parties are at fault, Hawaii’s comparative negligence rule will apply. This means that the court, based on the evidence, will assign each party a percentage of fault. Anyone who is less than 51% at fault can still claim compensation, but the amount will be lower than if they were totally without fault.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Bicycle Accident in Hawaii?
Bicycle accident victims can recover several types of damages, depending on the circumstances of the case. Factors such as the severity of the accident, the extent of injuries, and the applicable laws can affect the final outcome of a case.
In the event of a bicycle accident caused by a negligent driver, injured bicyclists have the right to receive up to $10,000 specifically designated to cover their medical expenses.
In addition to medical expenses, the types of damages a bicycle accident victim can seek compensation for include the following:
Pain and suffering
Loss of consortium
Loss of support
It is essential to consult with a qualified bicycle accident attorney to understand the specific damages applicable to a case and to determine the potential recovery options based on the unique circumstances of the bicycle accident.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Bicycle Accidents in Hawaii?
Every legal action has a specific timeframe within which you must file a claim for your injuries, and this is referred to as the statute of limitations. In Hawaii, the statute of limitations for personal injuries arising from vehicular accidents, including bicycle accidents, is set at two years.
Because bike accident victims may receive personal injury protection benefits for medical expenses, the time limit for filing a lawsuit starts not on the date of the accident or injury but on the date of the last PIP payment.
It is important to consult with an attorney to fully understand how the statute of limitations applies to every specific case and to ensure that legal action is taken appropriately within the designated period. Keep in mind that if the deadline for filing a case lapses, you also lose your right to file a personal injury lawsuit to pursue compensation.
Legal Resources for Hawaii Bicycle Accident Victims
The Hawaii State Bar Association provides a lawyer referral service that helps victims find attorneys who specialize in personal injury law, including bicycle accident cases. This nonprofit organization connects individuals with experienced lawyers nearby. It is the only bar-sponsored attorney referral program in Hawaii.
The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii is a nonprofit law firm that offers free legal assistance to low-income individuals who need help with various legal matters, including personal injury cases. It has offices throughout the state and can provide guidance and representation to eligible individuals.
The Hawaii Department of Transportation provides resources and information on bicycle safety, laws, and regulations in the state. It can be a helpful reference for individuals who want to learn more about their rights and responsibilities as cyclists. HDOT’s page also provides information on the Bike Plan Hawaii and other bikeway planning programs implemented to ensure bike safety throughout the state.
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