Bicycle Accident Statistics Across the U.S.
There are literally millions of bicyclists in the United States, and according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration ("NHTSA") which reported that in the summer of 2002, approximately 57 million people - or 28% of the population rode bikes. According to 50% of the survey, respondents reported riding bicycles purely for pleasure or exercise. Some of these rides, however, resulted in bicycle accidents and injuries ranging in severity from minor to life altering injuries (a wide range). Bicycle trips account for less than 1% of all trips in the United States, yet bicycle deaths constitute 2% of all traffic deaths. Bicycle riding by itself is not inherently dangerous, but combined with other factors, such as the inattention of other motorists on the road way, and roads that are not maintained properly or need additional maintenance, it can be a deadly activity.
It is hard to determine the exact number of bicycle accidents which occur each year because so many do go unreported and are not calculated in surveys. According to one research organization, which compared police records to emergency room records, it is possible that as few as 10% of bicycle injuries are reported to local law enforcement agencies like the police. However, there has been a significant decline in the number of serious bicycle accidents over the past twenty years; this is more than likely due to increased awareness of bicycle safety, both by cyclists and motorists. Safety campaigns aimed at children and parents have been effective; especially the website for U.S. Consumer Product Safety. Nevertheless, there continues to be too many bicycle deaths and bicycle injuries across the United States. There has been a trend toward fewer bicyclist deaths, but there has also been a major shift in who is being killed in bicycling accidents. For example, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in 1975, approximately 32% of those killed in bicycle accidents were over the age of 16 years of age. In 1999, approximately 71% of bicycle deaths involved bicyclists 16 years or older; however, today most bicycle accidents involve adults at intersections of major roads during the night or when the sun begins to set not casting much light outside. Also, as fuel prices continue to increase, the number of adults adopting cycling for necessity rather than recreation is likely to increase. If bicycle transportation does increase, unfortunately, so will the circumstances that bring about most bicycle accidents and injuries.
Some causes include "environmental factors" such as impaired visibility, and poor road and path conditions that need to be maintained better, including large and small potholes, road debris that should not be there, government maintenance problems and even dog attacks can cause bicycle accidents. Negligent motorists often can cause bike accidents too by opening a car door into a cyclist's path (usually without looking back) or not paying adequate attention while driving. Driving under the Influence of Alcohol is also a major cause of bicycle accidents; especially in San Diego, California which recently has seen an increase amount of drunk driving activity. It is the unfortunate truth that some motorists cause bicycle accidents by recklessly refusing to share the road with bicyclists; sometimes literally forcing cyclists off the road or into a collision; I have seen some examples of motorists navigating their cars in bike lanes on purpose due to impatience factors. The US Department of Transportation recently reviewed the circumstances of the approximately 750 bicycle accidents involving motor vehicles that occurred in the 1999 in the U.S. They concluded that all of the bike accidents they studied were the result of six common factors:
1. Failing to yield the right-of-way at an intersection by motorist (21.7%) or bicyclist (16.8%);
2. Motorists unexpectedly turning or merging into the path of a cyclist, often making left turns in the path of an oncoming cyclist (12.1%);
3. Bicyclist, typically children, failing to yield the right-of-way at a mid-block location, often a residential driveway. (11.7%);
4. Motorists overtaking bicyclists, often by misjudging the space needed to safely pass (8.6%); and, finally
5. Bicyclists unexpectedly turning or merging into the path of a motorist, often making left turns into the path of an oncoming motorist (7.3%).
Some bike accidents are caused by other outside factors as seen with design defects with manufacturers of bicycles, or negligent repair of bicycles or their mechanical components.
Mark C. Blane is a San Diego Bicycle Accident Attorney, and the managing lawyer of the Law Offices of Mark C. Blane, a San Diego, California Pedestrian Injury Law Firm devoted to representing families of injured persons of automobile accidents. If you or someone you love, has been injured or killed in San Diego County, or Southern California, due to the negligence of another, please order your FREE copy of Mr. Blane's book, The 10 Secrets You Need To Know About Your Injury Case, BEFORE You Call A Lawyer. It is full of helpful information, insights, and secrets that will help you protect your legal rights. It normally sells for $16.95; however, it is free to all California residents, or those injured in a California accident.