Anyone who had an eye on weather in Southwest Florida had also at some point had an eye on television meteorologist Jim Reif, who over the course of more than 30 years in South Florida gained a reputation as an expert on hurricane formations and an advocate for storm preparedness.
Sadly, it was reported by his employer, the NBC affiliate in Fort Myers, that the weatherman was killed in bicycle accident on a recent Sunday afternoon. Officials are still investigating the sequence of events that led to the crash, but it appears the 61-year-old ran into a sign before falling to the ground and suffering a traumatic brain injury. He was not wearing a helmet.
It’s unclear at this point whether a car caused him to swerve or if he simply lost his balance. Whatever the reason, the incident is a tragic reminder that cyclists must ride defensively at all times, particularly here in Florida, which has one of the highest rates of bicycle accidents and fatalities in the country.
Most of these crashes are the result of motor vehicle drivers who are either careless or intoxicated. However, there are sometimes situations in which road design and poor urban planning can result in hazards to riders. In some cases, these might be compensable if the municipality recognized or should have recognized a foreseeable risk of harm, and yet did nothing to mitigate it.
In general, bicyclists and pedestrians are among the most vulnerable road users because they lack protection in the event of a crash. The number of emergency room visits and hospitalizations relating to bicycle crashes reveals that the magnitude of the problem extends beyond what is often reflected in police reports.
The Florida Department of Transportation last year released the “Florida Pedestrian and Bicycle Strategic Safety Plan,” which details a comprehensive framework for reducing bicycle and pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries throughout the state. The report underscored the fact that these have both become critical problems requiring greater attention from both the public and community leaders.
Just in 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 125 bicycle fatalities in Florida. That’s almost triple the national average. Although Florida is home to about six percent of the U.S. population, 17.4 percent of all bicycle fatalities happen here.
Among those counties with the highest number of bicycle deaths:
–Miami –Broward –Orange –Hillsborough –Palm Beach –Pinellas –Duval –Volusia –Polk –Lee (where Reif was killed)
The vast majority of those killed and injured are males between the ages of 35 and 64, although the age of bicycle accident victims has begun to skew older in recent years due to the number of aging riders who have been drawn to the activity as a means to get and stay fit.
Regardless of reason or age, all riders can benefit from these bicycle safety tips:
–Ride in a straight line and obey all traffic signs and signals. The more predictable you can be, the less your chances of being struck by a motor vehicle.
–Watch out for car doors. Brace yourself always for the possibility that one could open in your path. If possible, leave about three feet between yourself and the vehicle.
–Maintain visibility. That means bright-colored clothing during the day, and reflective gear at night.
–Don’t wear earphones. While it might help you get in the riding zone, when you’re on a public street, you need to be able to maintain full awareness of your surroundings.
–Wear a helmet.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
NBC2’s Jim Reif dies after tragic bicycle accident, April 9, 2014, NBC-2
More Blog Entries:
Florida Cyclist, Pedestrian Problem Reflected Throughout the South, March 21, 2014, Fort Lauderdale Bicycle Accident Lawyer Blog