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Bicycle accidents on the rise nationwide

Many people today are recognizing the need to make lifestyle changes that not only improve their health, but also help the environment. More and more commuters are opting to use their bicycle to get from place to place rather than their car. 

However, recent data shows that bicycling may not be as safe as people think it is. Data released by the Governors Highway Safety Association and published in the L.A. Times shows that from 2010 to 2012, bicycle traffic deaths increased by 16 percent across the country. The report indicated that the highest number of bicycle traffic deaths occurred in both California and Florida, but that bicyclists from every state in the country were at an increased risk of being injured or killed in a traffic accident while cycling on the roadways. 

Bicycling traffic deaths by the numbers

  • In 2012, there were 722 traffic-related deaths involving cyclists. Of those deaths, 123 occurred in California and 120 occurred in Florida. 
  • The report revealed that bicycle accident fatalities account for about 2 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities that occur each year nationwide. In California, that figure jumps to 4 percent and in Florida, it has risen to 5 percent.
  • More than half of all bicycle accident fatalities occur in just six states: California, Florida, Michigan, New York, Texas and Illinois. 
  • About 84 percent of the bicycle accident fatalities that occurred in 2012 were adult men over the age of 20. In 1975, that figure was just 21 percent. 

Why are these accidents on the rise?

There are multiple factors contributing to the steep rise in bicycle accident traffic deaths. One of the main reasons for these deaths is the fact that an alarming number of cyclists still ride their bikes without wearing a helmet. In fact, two-thirds of the bicyclists who were killed in accidents in 2012 were not wearing helmets at the time of the accident. Despite the fact that safe helmet use is widely recommended, many people still choose not to wear one when they are riding their bikes. In the event of a bike accident, particularly one involving a motor vehicle, this leaves the cyclist at a very high risk of head trauma and serious injury.

In addition to a lack of helmet use, too many bicyclists also are riding their bikes while under the influence of alcohol. In 2012, 28 percent of cyclists involved in fatal accidents over the age of 16 had a blood-alcohol concentration of more than .08 percent. This is the legal limit at which someone is considered intoxicated. While many people have begun to recognize that driving under the influence is unsafe and can lead to motor vehicle accidents, people seem to not have the same understanding of cycling while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Beyond that, there is an increasing number of bicyclists on the roadways today. It is becoming trendy to use bicycling as a commuting method, and many of these commuters on bicycles are using the same roadways as motor vehicles. In addition, bicycling enthusiasts and those who bike for exercise are increasing in numbers as well. With more cyclists on the road, there will be a proportionate increase in fatal accidents involving bicycles.

Preventing bicycle accidents that result in injury or death

Many bicycle deaths are preventable. Bicyclists should take extra precautions when they will be sharing the roadways with motor vehicles. Wearing helmets is critical, and it's also important to avoid bicycling when an individual has been drinking. In addition, cycling enthusiasts should work with their community leaders to advocate for the needs of bikers. Marked bicycle lanes, bicycle boxes and bike boulevards can be added to roadways to improve the safety of bicyclists.

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