July 13, 2020
New research from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) is harrowing reading for those who love to cycle on California’s roads.
According to NHTSA researchers, more cyclists died on California roads between 2016 and 2018 than in any other three year stretch in history, with 455 total fatalities.
The rise wasn’t merely in sheer number of deaths, either. While population growth could explain a higher fatality total, researchers found the death rate (3.9 fatal accidents per million people) was at an all time high. The rate was a return to numbers last seen in the early 1990s, before California and other states made massive investments in bike lanes and safer streets initiatives.
Nationally, the death rate was also higher, reaching 2.6 deaths per million people, the highest three year rate in more than a decade.
According to a recent article in US News and World Report, several trends are behind this rise in cyclist deaths. They include distracted driving, more drivers on the road and the rising popularity of SUVs. Other factors include biking becoming a more popular commuting option and the explosive popularity of bike share programs in large cities.
Julia Griswold, a researcher at the University of California-Berkeley‘s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center, told US News and World Report:
“There’s definitely been an increase in popularity of cycling,” she said. “And (since the economy) has recovered from the 2008 crash, there’s been an increase in driving.”
Jennifer Boldry, director of research at PeopleForBikes, a national nonprofit that advocates for greater bike access and safety, told US News and World Report that distracted driving and larger vehicles were making life more dangerous for cyclists.
Boldry alluded to a recent study by the National Transportation Safety Board illustrating the danger of so-called “midblock” collisions. These are accidents occurring in-between intersections where speeds are higher, and they have been shown to cause more significant injuries for cyclists. Boldry said as drivers cruise in areas between intersections, they are more prone to look at smartphones or text, resulting in more mid-block collisions.
Boldry also pointed out that SUVs have larger blind spots and sit higher. This makes it more difficult to see cyclists and increases the odds that a cyclist will be hit in the head or chest rather than the legs — something that can lead to critical injuries.
Safe cycling advocates say that speed limit reduction and distracted driving enforcement — and greater emphasis on safe cycling infrastructure –are key to lowering death rates in California and elsewhere.
Gary Brustin is a lifelong cyclist and a specialist in bicycle accident litigation. In fact, these are the only types of cases that he will accept. If you’ve been injured in a collision or have suffered from the negligence of another, we urge you to contact Gary for a complimentary consultation.