Commuting by bicycle has grown in popularity in the last 20 years, with the number of cyclists in the U.S reaching over 47.5 million. Many people ride their bikes to work or while traveling around their city as a transportation alternative that has countless benefits for health, finances, and the environment.
Unfortunately, bicycles also come with inherent safety disadvantages, mainly involving traffic crashes. Because bicycles offer less protection from impact than other vehicles, a moving vehicle that slams into a bike rarely allows the cyclist to walk away with only a few scratches.
Latest Bicycle Accident Statistics - 2017
· In 2017, 777 bicyclists were killed in motor vehicle crashes.
· 86 percent of these victims were 20 years old or older.
· After 6 years of steadily increasing bicyclist deaths, the number of fatalities decreased in 2017 by 8 percent.
· 54 percent of bicyclists who died in 2017 were not wearing helmets.
· Bike fatalities were highest in August with 11 percent and lowest in February and March with 6 percent each.
· 75 percent of cyclist deaths occurred in urban areas.
· 36 percent of bicyclist deaths occurred at intersections.
· 59 percent of bicyclist deaths happened on major roads excluding interstates and freeways.
· 33 percent of fatalities occurred on minor roads.
Injuries Sustained in Bicycle Accidents
· Traumatic Brain Injuries
· Broken Bones
· Scrapes and Abrasions
· Distracted Drivers and Cyclists
It is not uncommon for drivers to become distracted behind the wheel. 25-50% of auto vehicle crashes are related to driver distraction. Many activities can divert the driver’s attention from the road. Common distractions include talking or texting on the phone, eating and drinking, fiddling with the stereo or navigation and talking to people in the car.
Distracted driving has also contributed to numerous cyclist fatalities. In 2015, 76 out of 818 cyclists’ deaths were caused by distracted drivers.
However, bicyclists can become distracted as easily as drivers and are just as likely to crash if distraction occurs. Many cyclists get distracted by their hands-free mobile phone or headphones which can cause them to veer into oncoming traffic or fail to maintain the bicycle lane.
· Drivers Failing to Yield to Cyclists
Bike accidents that involve a vehicle are usually a violation of negligence laws in which a driver fails to yield the right of way to a cyclist. These bike accidents are similar to a car accident that happens after a driver turns at a green light without yielding to traffic coming from the opposite direction.
A recent study conducted by the Florida Department of Transportation and the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research recorded 4 out of 21 close calls that involved drivers who failed to yield correctly as they turned. In all of these instances, the cyclists were abiding by traffic laws.
· Dooring Accidents
A dooring accident refers to a bicyclist who runs into a car door which has been opened directly in front of them. The door blocks the biker who doesn’t have enough time to notice, stop or swerve out of the way.
Dooring accidents are common in cities with busy streets and heavy traffic where bicyclists are forced to ride close to parked cars. In 2016, 490 injuries occurred because of dooring incidents. Of these injuries, 429 were slight injuries, 60 resulted in severe injuries and one led to a casualty.
The unfortunate victims who collide with an opening car door are lucky if the accident results in some slapstick or maybe a few scratches on their bike; however, plenty of dooring victims are not so fortunate. Many sustain serious injuries or are killed by these accidents.
· Defective Bicycle Parts
Many people think that bike accidents only involve crashing into a car or a stationary object near the road, such as a sign or fire hydrant. However, some bicycle accidents are the result of mechanical failure. If a bike has components that fail because of a defective product, this can cause a serious crash.
Any person that buys a bicycle expects it to work correctly. However, some bicycle parts such as forks, frames, handlebar stems, wheels, brakes or release hubs on the front wheels can stop working at a moment’s notice. When a part malfunctions, it can cause the bicyclist to be thrown straight over their handlebars.
Many bicycle accidents that occur because of a defective product are severe. When a part malfunctions, it typically comes as a shock to the cyclist who does not have time to control how they land or what they land on.
Bicycles offer very little protection against severe injuries, making bicyclists more vulnerable on the road than those who drive other vehicles. Both cyclists and drivers share the same rights and responsibilities on the roadway and should practice safe choices to help reduce deaths and injuries on the road.
Every Bicyclist Should:
· Protect their head by wearing a properly fitting helmet while riding.
· Stay focused on the road, surrounding traffic, and anything that could make you lose control of your bike.
· Ride on the road in the same direction as traffic.
· Watch out for parked cars and put some distance between yourself and the cars to avoid any unexpected opening doors.
· Stay alert while riding your bike by refraining from listening to music or talking on the phone.
Every Driver Should:
· Yield to bicyclists when making a turn to avoid a collision.
· Never open the door of a vehicle until you check that it is safe to do so.
· Give cyclists room and let them pass just as you would for any other vehicle.
· Obey all traffic laws and reduce speed when the road conditions call for it to avoid colliding with a bicyclist.