How do you prove to a cop that you were not at fault in an accident with a car when you were on a bike?

Crumple zones and skid marks don’t work in cycling.

When two cars collide there are several things besides the statements of the drivers that a cop (police officer when they do things correctly and cop when they don’t) can use to determine who was a fault. When a car hits cyclists, there are one set of skid marks, the cars, but rarely any on the pavement from the bike. Consequently it will be your statement against the drivers and cops have an affinity to believe the driver.
What do you do and in what order to make sure the correct person is handed a ticket and you are your bike are taken care of.

Before you take off on a ride:

  1. Get a smartphone and/or
  2. Get a GPS unit that records your travels in detail
  3. Download to your smartphone an app that tracks your location and time in as small of increments as possible.

When you go on your ride:

  1. Start the GPS unit or your smart phone program
  2. Tell someone where you are going and when you should be expected back
  3. Make sure you can dial 911 easily and quickly from your phone
  4. Make sure you can call friends if need help.
  5. Make sure you know how to use your phone’s camera
  6. a. Make sure you know how to upload photos to some site when you take them at the same time leaving a copy on your phone

  • F. Put an app on your phone that allows you to record conversations and upload or email those files to a third party or upload them

If you are in an accident:

  1. Call 911
  2. Tell them you have been involved in an accident, there are injuries (if there are) and damages and request the police

    Do not state that one of the vehicles is a bike if you can because that may slow response in some jurisdictions.

  3. Photograph everything, the car, the bike, the scene and any witnesses, especially reluctant ones.
  4. Get names and addresses of any witnesses and ask them to stick around until the cops arrive
  5.           Take a picture of the witnesses so you can match the information to each witness
  6.           Better photograph their driver’s license
  7.          Upload your photographs to a safe site, keeping copies on your phone to show the cop
  8. Get the driver’s information and while you’re doing that
  9. Record the driver’s conversation. Initially most people tell the truth, only when the cops arrive do they start to change stories.

However, do not give all of this to the police officer unless you have backed it up or have copies; it may disappear. If the conversation is backed up by the evidence or telling, let the officer hear it and tell the officer as soon as you can get it downloaded you can provide a copy. However you cannot give him the smartphone as it is your only phone. Ask the officer if you can email the recording to him from your phone and do so along with any photographs.

If your GPS allows you, do the same with your track on the GPS. Tell the officer it requires special software that you have to download and print the track and you will deliver it to him ASAP, but be hesitant about giving him the GPS.

Always set your GPS to record as much information as possible for each of your rides. A report that only provides data every several minutes may not sure you stopped at the stop sign before proceeding into the intersection. However multiple GPS hits at one spot with the time stamp will show you obeyed the law.
At the same time, always ride as the law requires. If you do not you will provide the police with the information needed to ignore your story or even write you’re a ticket

Get the case number from the officer and his information. Many officers carry business cards now days. Get the officers business card, and take a photograph of it with your phone and upload it. (In case you lose it or it gets sweaty and can’t be used.) Find out how you can supplement the report with a transcript or a copy of the recording, photographs and a download of the GPS report showing your mode of travel.

If you have the GPS track on your phone make sure you email a copy of the track, photographs and recording to yourself ASAP to have a back copy of everything.

You may not be able to win the argument at the scene; cops are tuned to disregard cyclists. Put together a package of the information you have and deliver it to the police officer. Get a receipt when you do. If you do not hear from the officer within 7 days, find out the officers supervisor and give a copy of your information to him, with a cover letter. Also at that time, give a copy of the report to your county commissioner or city council person anyone who was elected to their position and has responsibility for the police.

If that does not work, go to the press and/or a police overview group. The squeaky wheel gets greased and until you make enough noise that someone cares, you may not get satisfaction.

The whole key is to get enough information to be able to prove your point from anyone or anything other than you. Photographs, recordings, notes and other people are more credible than cyclists in many cases when pleading a case. If nothing else, those third parties and things will support your claims.

For examples of how this has worked see: Why Every Cyclist Should Ride With GPS and Why Every Cyclist Should Think About A GPS

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Copyright 2011 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law, Recreation.Law@Gmail.com

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