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Dennis’ Law Affords Cyclists the Same Protection as Illinois Motorists

Dexter Evans

In 2015, a 68-year old man, Dennis Jurs, was tragically killed while driving his bicycle in Hampshire, Illinois. In spite of the fact that the driver who hit him had a stop sign and Dennis did not, a Kane County judge dismissed the ticket against the driver because Dennis was not driving a “vehicle” as defined by  the Illinois Vehicle Code. In essence, the driver did not have to yield the right-of-way to a bicycle, only to a vehicle.

ghost bike

Dennis Jurs was one of many bicyclists injured or killed each year. In 2014, 726 people lost their lives in bicycle/motor vehicle crashes, equal to just under 2 people every day. In the same year, approximately 50,000 people were injured in bicycle/motor vehicle crashes.

In reaction to Dennis’ tragic death, Dennis’ Law came to being. This new law, which will take effect January 1, 2017, assigns the same right-of-way privileges to cyclists that are currently enjoyed by motorists. To read the government decision click here. Simply put, Dennis’ Law grants all of the rights enjoyed by drivers of motor vehicles to cyclists.

This is an important change in Illinois law for both criminal and civil cases. On the criminal side, a driver does not get to evade responsibility simply because he or she hit a bicycle as opposed to another vehicle or pedestrian. On the civil side, violation of a statute can be evidence of negligence per se where there is a rebuttable presumption that, because the defendant violated a law, it is presumed he or she was negligent.

This of course does not mean that you do not have a personal injury case until the new law takes effect. The current law still allows a cyclist to pursue a personal injury claim regardless of what the Illinois Vehicle Code currently says. If you were injured in a bicycle crash, make sure to contact a personal injury attorney who can fully explain your rights under the current laws and remember to keep those helmets on!

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