Mark Roman | September 21, 2017 | Bicycle Accidents
The Governor’s Highway Safety Association just released a major report on bike safety. Rather than analyzing brand new data, the report reviewed fatal crash data from 1975 to 2015 in detail to try and figure out trends.
Overall, the news is not good. Bike fatalities declined steadily year after year until 2010. Since then, they’ve started going back up again. In 2015, 818 bicyclists were killed on U.S. roads, which represented an alarming 12-percent increase over 2014. This was the largest single year increase in decades. Despite years of safety campaigns, bike fatalities remain stubbornly at about 2-percent of total road fatalities. Furthermore, bike deaths have increased by about 55 each year since 2011.
Some other striking trends emerged in the data. These days, 88-percent of bike fatalities involve adults. Child bicycle deaths have declined. This doesn’t mean children have learned to ride more safely, and that adults ride more dangerously. A more likely explanation is that more adults, but less children, are riding bikes and putting themselves in harm’s way.
About 70-percent of fatal bike crashes happen in urban areas. Naturally, this suggests urban areas are more dangerous for cyclists. However, another factor is simply that many more people ride bikes in cities. There is no comparison in the report of crashes per hours of urban cycling vs. hours of rural cycling, so it’s hard to figure out which is the greater factor.
Another striking fact: 54-percent of fatal bike crashes involved people who weren’t wearing helmets. Although helmets will not prevent all fatalities, they are proven to prevent many head injuries which can result in death.
Despite years of warnings and education, intoxication remains a factor in bicycle deaths. In 2015, almost a quarter (22-percent) of cyclists killed in crashes with motorists were legally intoxicated. Twelve percent of motorists involved in crashes with cyclists were also intoxicated.
The data also showed that riding at night is more dangerous than riding in daylight. Although the percentage of crashes occurring at night was the same as in daylight (47-percent each, with the remaining 6-percent at dawn or dusk), 80-percent of bicycle riding happens in daylight. This means, of course, that 20-percent of the riding resulted in almost half the crashes.
Based on these findings, a few things are clear:
1) If you have a choice between riding day or night, ride during the day. If you do ride at night, use bike lights.
2) Don’t ride, or drive a motor vehicle, while intoxicated. This should go without saying.
3) Wear a helmet. Always.
4) If you drive – particularly in cities – get used to the fact that there are bikes around. Watch for them just as you would watch for other cars.
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