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Bicycle Crashes and Statistics

Important Information for California Bike Riders

It’s estimated that just 10 percent of bicycle crash victims file police reports. What we know is that, at last count, 726 bicyclists were killed by motorists, and at least 50,000 cyclists suffered injuries after being struck by cars. While the numbers have fluctuated over the years, what we’ve learned from bicycle crashes and statistics is that the overall trend is upward, with an 11 percent increase in injuries from 2001 to 2011. Society pays more than $4 billion per year for the cost of bicyclist injuries, by National Safety Council estimates.

Despite these alarming bicycle crash statistics, riding remains a generally safe, healthy activity for tens of millions of people. Bicycle fatalities represent less than two percent of all traffic fatalities, in fact. Safety experts list numerous ways you can reduce your risk of injury or death while traveling by bike. In some cases, risk reduction is out of our hands, as we wait for traffic safety officials to wake up and make certain travel corridors safer for cyclists. Filing a lawsuit to hold negligent parties accountable is sometimes the only recourse an injured cyclist, or a killed cyclist’s loved ones, has. Los Angeles bicycle accident attorney Sean Salamati is standing by to help victims throughout Southern California recover from injuries or a sudden death in the family.

Bicycle Accident Statistics

Consider the following bicycle accident statistics from the National Highway Safety Administration:

  • Forty-five is the average age of bicyclists killed by motorists.
  • Males represent 88 percent of cyclist fatalities.
  • Children account for a third of non-fatal emergency room visits related to bicycling accidents.
  • Urban areas account for 71 percent of bicyclist deaths – typically at non-intersection stretches of road.
  • The hours between 6 and 9 pm are the most dangerous time of day, with 20 percent of bicyclist fatalities.
  • Alcohol was a factor in 35 percent of all crashes
  • California, Florida, and Texas are the riskiest places to bike — with 128, 139, and 50 deaths, respectively.

Bike Crash Injuries 

Bicycle injury statistics compiled by the CDC indicate that over 900 bicyclists died while riding, and 494,000 bicyclists went to the emergency room for the treatment of injuries.

The most frequent causes of bike crash injuries were:

  • Being hit by a car (29%)
  • Losing balance and falling (17%)
  • Hitting a poorly maintained surface (13%)
  • Rider errors like not paying attention (13%)
  • Collisions with other cyclists or objects (7%)
  • Dogs running out (4%)

Common traumatic bicycle crash injuries include:

  • Head injuries like skull fractures, concussions, brain contusions and intracranial hemorrhaging
  • Face and eye injuries like dental fractures, foreign bodies in the cornea, and facial fractures
  • Musculoskeletal injuries like fractures, dislocations and strains (particularly in the extremities)
  • Chest injuries like rib fractures and parenchymal lung injury
  • Abdominal injuries like ruptured spleens, hepatic lacerations, pancreatic trauma, bowel contusions, hernias, vascular perforations, rental contusions, pelvic fractures
  • Skin and soft tissue injuries like “road rash” abrasions, contusions, lacerations and embedded debris

Bicycle Safety Statistics

Much attention has been paid to the effectiveness of wearing a helmet while bicycling in recent decades. However, these bicycle safety statistics may be overblown, say mandatory helmet law critics. Injury rates for children under 16 were about 20 percent lower in states with helmet laws, according to one study of U.S. bicyclist fatalities from 1999-2009 published in the Journal of Pediatrics. This rate is much lower than the “85 percent lower risk” cited by a 1989 study, which has not been replicated since. Furthermore, the rates for injury were already falling before helmet laws took effect, so the direct impact of legislation may have been even lower than suspected.

“We should be talking about other strategies [beyond helmets] to reduce cycling injuries,” University of Toronto researcher Jessica Dennis told The Washington Post. She pointed to traffic calming efforts, the creation of designated bike lanes, and public safety campaigns as possible solutions.

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center emphasizes bicycle safety measures like wearing fluorescent and retro-reflective clothing and adding lights to the bicycle to improve visibility, as well as roadway engineering measures like designated bike lanes to improve bicyclist safety.

We tend to think of accidents as “random, unforeseeable tragedies,” the LA Times reports, but road safety programs in Sweden have proven that the root causes of these collisions can be remedied with the right data and actions. Since enacting their Vision Zero program, there have been only 16 cycling fatalities, despite 100,000 bike trips per day.

In Sweden and the Netherlands, separations between cars and bikes has been crucial. In LA, the data suggests at-fault drivers fail to yield the right of way, make improper turns, and drive at unsafe speeds. When bicyclists are at fault, they are often riding on the wrong side of the road.

The general consensus among safety experts is that designated bike lanes and parked car barriers between cyclists and motorists are good starts, but it will take more to improve safety for bicyclists. Bike boxes – spaces before an intersection reserved for bikes – and separate bicycle lane traffic signals with advanced green lights may help. Designing master planned communities with biking commuters in mind may help.

Ultimately, it’s about waking up, argues the League of American Bicyclists whose research has suggested that 42 percent of drivers involved in collisions with cyclists were “careless or inattentive” at the time of the accident. Over a third of bicycle/car collisions were hit-and-runs. Long Beach bike safety expert Danny Gamboa explains: “We need to have a conversation about changing our behavior, about people. We are all people. The form of transportation shouldn’t matter.”

California Leads The Nation In Bicycle Accident Injuries

“If you are going to be killed by a car while riding a bicycle, there’s a good chance you are male, older than 20 and living in California or Florida,” reported the LA Times after reading the 2012 Governors Highway Safety Association report.

  • California leads the nation in bicyclist fatalities. Bicyclist deaths account for 2 percent of transportation-related deaths nationwide, but it’s 4 percent in California.
  • At 41, the number of fatalities among Los Angeles bicyclists from January through May 2016 is double the number during that same period last year, according to the SGV Tribune.
  • In Los Angeles, the most dangerous intersections are no secret. LA’s Vermont Avenue has seen over 230 collisions in a five-year span. Where it crosses West 4th, Olympic Boulevard, and Jefferson Boulevard are the most dangerous spots.

The Salamati Firm has secured substantial settlements and judgements for clients in bicycle accident claims, ranging from $200,000 to $2 million. Call 888-259-4060 to speak with a Los Angeles bicycle accident attorney if you or a loved one have been affected by a bicycle crash resulting in death or injury.

Additional Bicycle Crash Resources:

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