Q: Unfortunately, I was involved in a minor traffic collision this past weekend. Both vehicles were not damaged too badly and they were both safe to drive. Should we have moved the vehicles out of the roadway or waited for the police to arrive?

A: People believe you must leave your vehicle in the roadway to prove your side of the story. This is not true. Most of the time, a collision investigator is able to determine the area of impact and the type of collision by several factors in their investigation. It is not necessary to leave your vehicle in the roadway and hold up traffic if the collision is minor and there are no injuries.

We all understand that traffic collisions can be stressful and/or overwhelming. The first thing to do is take a deep breath, stay calm and check for injuries. Once you establish that no one is injured, evaluate the damage to your vehicle. If the collision is minor and your vehicle can safely be driven, activate your emergency hazard lights and move your vehicle to a safe place out of traffic. If available, place a cone or a traffic triangle behind your vehicle for safety. Once your vehicle is out of the roadway, you can start exchanging information with the driver of the other vehicle.

If you desire assistance with this process you can call the Santa Monica Police Dispatch Center at (310) 458-8491 and a police representative will be dispatched to assist you. If there is a major traffic collision and/or injuries associated with the collision, call 911 and help will be dispatched right away. Drive safely and do not drive distracted.

Q: With the great weather and gas prices climbing, I am starting to ride my bicycle more. Do I have to stop at stop signs and follow all the same rules as a vehicle?

A: I am glad to hear you are riding your bicycle more. I encourage everyone to ride when you can. We all know that our city has several thousand vehicles utilizing our roads at any given time, and it is imperative we, as vehicle drivers and bicycle riders, share the road. The city of Santa Monica is constantly evaluating how we can improve our roadways to entice others to choose alternate modes of transportation.

The answer to your question is yes; you must stop for every stop sign and follow the same rules of the road. Bicycle riders on public streets have the same rights and responsibilities as a motor vehicle driver and are subject to the same rules and regulations as any other vehicle on the roadway. This means that rules drivers must follow are the same rules bicyclists must follow.

The laws were established to keep bicyclists and motorists safe on the roadways. Although we all know a vehicle moves faster than a bicycle, we must share the road. The California Vehicle Code also recognizes this and established a rule on how to share the roadway. The rule is that a bicyclist who is traveling upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at the same time shall ride as close as practical to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway (California Vehicle Code Section 21202). This same rule states that a bicyclist riding on a one-way street can ride as close as practical to the left hand curb as well. There are a few exceptions to the rule. The law says you do not have to ride closest to the right hand curb or edge when preparing to make a left turn at an intersection or into a private roadway, when it is reasonably necessary to avoid an unsafe condition, and when overtaking another bicyclist.

As we now understand that bicyclists must follow the same rules of the road as vehicles, let us get out on the roadways and travel safely. The key to bicycling safely is to be predictable, visible and communicate your intentions to motorists. Never assume someone sees you and never ride distracted.

Q: My high school teenager thinks it is uncool to wear a helmet while riding his bicycle. Can he get a ticket for not wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle?

A: Yes, the California Vehicle Code states that any person who is under the age of 18 years old shall not operate a bicycle, scooter, skateboard or in-line skates, upon a roadway, highway or any other public bicycle path without wearing a properly fitted and fastened helmet (California Vehicle Section 21212). Your teenager is subject to a ticket by a police officer if he/she is riding without a helmet.

I would also like to address the fact that your teenager believes it is “uncool” to wear a helmet. All professional BMX riders wear helmets during their competition events and you see several who wear them on the videos. These professional athletes understand that they need to protect their heads by wearing a helmet. These are the riders the teenagers look up to. The professionals know it’s smart and cool to wear a helmet and so should your teenager.

Although it is not the law for an adult to wear a helmet, I also believe you should always wear a helmet while riding a bicycle. The statistics show that lives are saved by wearing a helmet. The Safe America Foundation reported that there are approximately 550,000 people who require medical treatment due to bicycle crashes, and approximately 950 people die. Of those who pass away, approximately 80 percent of the deaths result from brain injury. This report also states that a properly worn helmet can reduce head injuries by 85 percent. These are impressive numbers and I suggest we all play it safe and ride with a bicycle helmet.

This column was written by Neighborhood Resource Officer Joseph Cortez, Beat 4 (Montana Avenue to Interstate 10, 20th Street to Ocean Avenue, excluding Downtown). He can be reached at (424) 200-0684.

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