While a common transport-related fear is centered on planes, you’re a lot more likely to die in a bike-related accident – the chances are just shy of 1 in 5,000, compared to 1 in 20 million for planes. While that’s a lot better than the 1 in 103 chances of dying in a motor vehicle accident, the problem is that any given bike accident is more likely to be fatal than a car accident.
Anyone who’s injured by a cycling accident could be entitled to damages; in that case, they should contact a car accident lawyer like Morgan & Morgan, who will know the ins and outs of traffic laws, how to establish liability, and more.
The question is, how can you avoid getting into a bike accident? Forewarned is forearmed – let’s take a look at a few facts regarding bicycle usage, injuries, and fatalities in the US.
Trends in cyclist deaths and injuries over the years
If you’re looking at how the numbers have changed since 1975, it doesn’t look too bad – you’ll see a 16% decrease. However, that statistic doesn’t tell you that cyclist deaths reached a low point in 2010, then rose 36% by 2019. Here’s what the numbers look like for collision-related fatalities the past few years:
- 818 deaths in 2015
- 840 deaths in 2016
- 777 deaths in 2017
- 854 deaths in 2018
- 846 deaths in 2019
Males account for a whopping 88% of bicycle deaths, which is 7.3 times higher than the rate for females. Males in their 40s or 50s seem to be disproportionately affected by bicycle fatalities compared to other age groups, possibly because of the popularity of cycling as a sport. Females, on the other hand, seem to have roughly the same fatality rate across all age groups.
When you’re talking about injuries, the story is much the same for females, but very different for males. While you can see a small peak in injuries for males in their 40s or 50s, by far the highest occurrence is in males ages 10 to 14, even if you’re looking at data over the last two decades.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 846 cyclist fatalities in 2019 caused by collisions with motor vehicles; not surprisingly, that accounts for almost all bicycle-related deaths for that year. If you’re examining motor-vehicle accidents, though, bike-related collisions only caused 2% of fatalities.
With regards to injuries, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 417,485 injuries in 2019 that were treated at the emergency room as a result of bicycles or bike accessories. While most estimates focus on preventable fatal injuries, this includes both intentional and preventable injuries.
What causes most bicycle accidents?
As you may have guessed, people aren’t dying because they’re losing their balance and tumbling into ditches; it’s because they’re sharing the roadways with motor vehicles, and often failing to exercise the proper precautions. Of course, in some cases the cyclists do everything right, and are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. While there’s no way to get rid of the risk of collision while riding a bike, you can still reduce it.
Is cycling always dangerous?
In one sense, yes – you can’t ever totally remove the risk of riding a bike. That being said, you could say the same thing about pretty much anything. However, this doesn’t mean that you should just throw caution to the wind and enjoy the experience while you can; there are still several steps to take that can significantly reduce your risk of injury or death while riding a bike.
- Wear a helmet. Just do it. It might not look as glamorous as letting your hair float behind you in the breeze, but it will also reduce your risk of brain injury by 58%, and your risk of head injury by 60%. Honestly, that’s a pretty good trade-off, especially if you do a lot of cycling in high-traffic areas. Plenty of places have laws that require the use of bicycle helmets, but they aren’t always enforced. Even if your area doesn’t require you to use a helmet, do it anyway – it could make a big difference if you’re ever part of a collision.
- Avoid riding at night. Visibility is severely reduced at night, meaning you’re a lot more likely to get hit by even attentive motorists if you’re on a bike. While bike-riding in the city is more dangerous compared to country roads, nighttime cycling can be equally dangerous no matter where you are. Even though there are more cars that could potentially hit you in urban areas, there’s also more light. If you’re cycling down a dark rural road with nothing more than a bike light to show you the way, it’ll be extremely difficult for someone in a car to spot you until they’re far too close.
- Use reflective gear. If you have to ride at night (or during sunrise or sunset, when visibility is reduced as well), make it as hard as possible for motorists to miss you. You can buy reflectors that attach to your bike, as well as jackets, pants, or a helmet with reflective strips attached. It’s even possible to buy the strips themselves, and sew or glue them onto your cycling gear. The shinier you look in the car headlights the better.
- Avoid high-traffic areas. This is a matter of simple mathematics. When you’re cycling during the day, the more vehicles you’re around, the more likely you are to get hit. While you shouldn’t be anticipating a collision with every car that passes, it would be smart to steer clear of areas with heavy traffic. Even if that means taking the long way around, it will significantly reduce your risk of injury or death.
With the help of some common-sense tips, you’ll be less likely to become a statistic.
The dangers of cycling relative to other modes of transport certainly shouldn’t discourage you from enjoying it, either as a convenience or as a sport. Instead, simply take some practical steps to make sure you stay safe.