Biking is popular for many reasons; it’s fun, it’s healthy, and it’s an ecologically friendly alternative to driving. However, there are dangers to biking. In fact, the number of fatal bicycle accidents involving motor vehicles is steadily increasing. According to reports in the Los Angeles Times,between 2010 and 2012 the number of U.S. bicyclists killed in a biking accident involving a motor vehicle rose by 16 percent. The reports came from the nonprofit Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA).
The GHSA’s reports also included five facts about fatal bike crashes that everyone should know:
- Over 700 bicyclists were killed in motor vehicle crashed in 2012. The GHSA’s report states that 722 bicyclists were killed in accidents involving motor vehicles in 2012. This is a six percent increase from 680 deaths in 2011, as well as a 16 percent increase from 2010, when more than 621 bicyclists were killed.
- More than two-thirds of bicyclists killed were not wearing helmets. According to reports, the majority of bicyclists involved in these crashes were not wearing safety helmets. Most states have laws requiring minors to wear safety helmets while biking, however, no states have a state or federal law requiring adult bicyclists to wear helmets. Still, many local laws may require helmets in some jurisdictions.
- Over one-fourth of cyclists involved in fatal accidents were drunk. The report states that 28 percent of bicycle riders killed in motor vehicle crashes had a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit.
- Almost 9 out of 10 victims of fatal bike accidents are adult males. According to the report, men make up the majority of fatalities resulting from bike accidents. In 2012, 88 percent of those killed in bike accidents were men.
- Fatal bike accidents are heavily concentrated in urban areas. The reports also found that fatal bike accidents are increasingly occurring in urban areas. 69 percent of fatal bike accidents occurred in urban areas in 2012, compared to only 50 percent of fatal accidents in 1975.
The report found that just six states, California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Michigan, and Texas accounted for 54 percent of all fatal bike accidents from 2012 through 2012. Alan Williams, former top scientist at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, analyzed fatality data and noted other significant changes in fatal crash trends. Williams found that adults age 20 and older represented 84 percent of bike accident fatalities in 2012, compared with only 21 percent in 1975. Williams also noted that alcohol impairment and the lack of helmet use is a significant factor in bicyclist deaths.
The report noted that bicyclist are generally safer when there is a physical separation of bicycles and motor vehicles. Ideally, cities should strive to provide “cycle paths” for optimum bike safety. However, the report notes that separate bike paths are not always feasible, and suggested other routes to increased bike safety, such as more marked bike lanes, separate bicycle traffic signals, and “bicycle boulevards” that travel through a network of traffic-calmed roads that parallel urban road.