Do you bicycle to work or ride your bike for fitness on public roads? A study done by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), funded by State Farm Insurance, has some sobering statistics for you if you are one of the millions of adults who regularly ride a bicycle.
A couple of generations ago, the majority of bicycle traffic deaths were children; in 1975, 78 percent of those who died were age 20 or younger. But advance forty years to 2015, and the average age of a cyclist killed in a traffic accident is 45. Adults now make up 88 percent of cyclist deaths. “More of us are getting out and riding our bikes, and that’s great, but we’re seeing [cycling] deaths go up by about 55 deaths per year,” commented GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins.
The Details of the GHSA Report
Cyclist injuries are on the rise as well. It’s estimated that 45,000 riders suffered injuries in 2015. However, the actual number is likely to be much higher because few bike-car accidents are reported to the police unless the injuries are serious enough to call an ambulance.
Cyclists are vulnerable in many ways when they don’t have dedicated lanes. Parked cars with drivers that open doors in a cyclist’s path, drivers making right or left turns in front of a bike rider, and cars hitting cyclists from behind are only a few of the ways that those on bicycles can be injured or killed.
Among the findings in the GHSA report for 2015:
- Most bike accidents—72 percent—happened on roadways, not in intersections.
- There was an increase in cyclist deaths of 12.2 percent over 2014, compared to an increase in all traffic deaths of 7.2 percent. Total bicycle-related fatalities were 818.
- Distracted drivers were responsible for 76 of the 818 cyclist deaths.
- Over half of cyclists who died were not wearing a helmet.
- One-third of people in a survey said they had ridden a bike in the past year.
- Approximately 47 percent of bike fatalities occurred during the day, and 47 percent occurred at night. However, only 20 percent of bike rides happen after dark. You are much more at risk if you ride at night.
- In bike crashes involving vehicles, men made up 85 percent of the fatalities.
- Kids riding bikes to school are a rarity now. In 1969, nearly 50 percent rode a bike to school. In 2015, only 2.2 percent did.
- In 37 percent of deadly bike crashes, alcohol played a part. Drivers were the drinkers in 12 percent of the cases, with cyclists under the influence in 22 percent.
The necessary infrastructure to support cyclists and keep them safe on our roads is lagging behind the number of people who bike on a regular basis. The report provides 30 action steps for local communities and state highway safety offices to evaluate their current programs for bicycles and ways to improve cyclist safety. Among their suggestions are a greater number of dedicated bike lanes that are clearly marked and that separate cyclists from cars, “bike boxes” that give bike riders a head start at traffic lights, and traffic signals with a green light expressly for cyclists.
Cyclists: Ride Safely
We have some suggestions for how you can ride your bike more safely:
- Always wear a helmet. Always.
- Obey the rules of the road. Don’t blow through stop signs or red lights.
- Ride in the same direction as traffic.
- Don’t ride on the sidewalk. It’s harder for drivers to see you when you reach an intersection.
- Make eye contact with drivers whenever you can to ensure that they see you.
- Ride predictably. Cars cannot maneuver as quickly as a bike can.
- Ride defensively, ever alert to what the drivers around you are doing.
- Wear bright, reflective clothing, especially if you are riding at dawn, dusk, or at night. Use reflectors on your bike.
- Use hand signals to inform drivers of your next turn.
- Keep your bike in excellent repair, especially your brakes.
- Always have one hand on your handlebars.
We at the Louthian Law Firm hope that you will be careful out there!
Listening hard. Working harder.
At the Louthian Law Firm, we’re bicycle enthusiasts. We’re advocates of laws which can make two-wheeled transportation both more enjoyable and safer. We’re also advocates for South Carolinians who have been injured in bicycle accidents and for those who have lost a loved one due to a driver’s negligence. With our firm on the case, you can rest assured that you’ll receive the personalized attention you deserve. Call us at 1-803-454-1200 or use our online contact form if you have questions about your bicycle accident and the possibility of collecting damages from a negligent driver.