After reaching an all-time low in 2011, auto accident fatalities in the U.S. are once again on the rise. This trend has applied to bicyclists as well. The Governors Highway Safety Association reports that bicycle accident fatalities increased by 12.2 percent in 2015.
In South Carolina, the state Department of Public Safety reports in 2015, a person was injured in a traffic crash once every nine minutes and fatalities occurred every nine hours. Crashes happened every four minutes. Every week, we lost a child under six due to a traffic accident. A bicyclist was killed once every 23 days.
The GHSA report also provides insight into the demographic composition of bicycle accident victims. Fatality rates rose dramatically between 1975 and 2015 for riders over twenty years old (212 to 720). Interestingly, fatality rates fell dramatically during the same period for riders under twenty years old (786 to 91). It remains to be seen if this is due to a shift in the age of the average bike rider, effective childhood bike safety programs, or other factors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that, while bicycle riding only accounts for about one percent of trips in the United States, bicyclists face a higher risk of injury or death than motor vehicle occupants. This is largely due to the added protection a vehicle affords its passengers.
Bicyclists who are injured in Hilton Head bicycle accidents can seek compensation from the at-fault driver, or even through their own uninsured/ underinsured motorist coverage. Consulting with an experienced injury lawyer is the best way to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
The Many Causes of Bicycle Fatalities
Beyond simply reporting bicycle accident rates, the Governors Highway Safety Association has also analyzed the data to identify the risk factors contributing to these accidents. The demographic data indicates that adults constitute 88 percent of fatality victims, and are therefore more likely than children to be fatally injured in an accident between a bicycle and a motor vehicle. Men are also six times more likely than women to die in a bicycle crash. Interestingly, the gender differential has been constant since it was first reported in 1975.
In the majority of accidents, a motor vehicle driver failed to see the bicyclist. Bicyclists are more likely to see the motor vehicle before a collision, but expect the driver to yield the right of way. This demonstrates the importance of attentiveness to what's happening on the road – an attentiveness that must be practiced by all roadway users in order to prevent accidents.
Alcohol is another factor which contributes to bicycle accidents. While the number of bicycle accidents due to alcohol impairment has decreased, it has not declined as quickly as alcohol use among drivers. This indicates that the effective media campaigns and advocacy efforts of drunk driving opponents have yet to reach the bicyclist population. Like motor vehicle drivers, bicyclists must accept personal responsibility for avoiding impairment while riding.
Bicycle Safety Tips
The best way to protect cyclists is to prevent bicycle accidents altogether. Safety starts before you hop on and set out. Make sure your bike is in safe working condition prior to taking a ride. Wear a helmet and other protective gear to reduce the injuries that are sustained in an accident. Check your kids' helmets and safety gear to make sure they are an appropriate fit. When on the road, use flashers or your bell as necessary to help drivers see you. Pay particular attention when riding through parking lots (where drivers have diverted their attention to the task of reversing their vehicles and may not be expecting to see you). Watch carefully for obstructions in the road. Being smaller and lighter than cars, bicycles are more susceptible to debris in the road. And slow down! The best way to avoid a collision is to allow enough time to react to obstructions, traffic, and other road conditions.