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Maryland Senate Candidate Hit and Killed by SUV While Biking

Maryland lost our Green Party Senate candidate to tragedy a week ago. The candidate, Natasha Pettigrew, was training for a triathlon early on the morning of Sept. 19 when she was struck by an SUV while riding her bike along Route 202 just outside of Largo in Prince George's County.

Maryland State Police report the woman driving the Cadillac Escalade that hit 30-year-old Pettigrew thought she had hit a dog or a deer and didn't want to stop alongside the road that early in the morning to check. The SUV driver proceeded to drive four miles to her home after the bicycle/car crash, where she eventually realized there was a bike lodged under her SUV. She then called the police. Pettigrew had put her pursuit of a law degree from the University of Miami School of Law on hold to run for Maryland's open Senate seat on behalf of the Green Party. The accident investigation remains ongoing at this time.

Aside from wearing bright, reflective and protective gear for both night and day riding, there are many other precautions riders can take to prevent getting into an accident with a car and injured or killed:

  • Honk. Yes, it may be awkward, but also in your best interest to get a bike horn or bell. If you can't make eye contact with a driver or you're not sure they've seen you for whatever reason, it's better to let them know you're there than to risk being hit by a car. Bike bells are required in many countries throughout the world, though not in the U.S.
  • Slow down there, Lance.  When approaching an intersection, you should be able to come to a complete stop fairly quickly if necessary.
  • Don't ride on the sidewalk. Drivers aren't expecting anyone or anything to come off the sidewalk into an intersection with any speed. Riding on the street just like a car will make drivers aware of you.
  • Position yourself further left in the lane, much like a car. Don't hug the curb. You may be worried about being hit from behind, but rear-end collisions between cars and bikes actually comprise a small fraction of all bicycle/car accidents because drivers coming up from behind have more time to see you in front of them than drivers crossing your path at a 90 degree or other angle.
  • Ride with traffic, not against. This will save you for the same reason as the prior point. When you ride with traffic, you give cars more time to see you, as you're not both approaching each other from opposite directions.
  • Don't stop in a car's blind spot at a red light. If the driver can't see you stopped there, you're likely to get hit if the car turns when the light changes. This also applies to passing on the right. The car may not have seen you come up behind them, so anticipate that you haven't been noticed and give the car leeway.
  • Get a mirror and use it. Helmet or handlebar mirrors are cheap. Keep your eyes peeled. It should be your number one priority to ensure your own safety on the road.

We hope you find these tips helpful in preventing bike/car accidents. Feel free to comment on this post if you have additional tips!

Source: The Washington Post "Green Party candidate for Senate" 9/25/10

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