Bike Fatalities Are On the Rise in California


Despite safety gear and awareness campaigns, fatal bike accidents continue to rise. California saw the highest rate for any three-year period between 2016 and 2018 since the mid-1990s. What’s even more concerning is that nationally the three-year death rate was higher than it has been since the mid-2000s. 

California’s Startling Bicycle Accident Fatality Statistics

Biking has increased in popularity in this state thanks to fitness cycling and the rise in bike shares. However, along with the increased miles traveled by bikes comes a sobering statistic: Between 2016 and 2018, more bicyclists lost their lives in traffic crashes in California than during anything consecutive three-year period in the previous 25 years. Fatal bike accidents have occurred most often in Los Angeles County.

During this three-year timeframe, 455 bicyclists were killed, according to data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This means nearly four bike accidents fatalities per million people, which is the highest rate over a three-year period since the mid-1990s predating extensive bike networks that many cities have initiated. 

Across the nation, fatal accidents were less but also rising. Between 2016 and 2018, 2,516 bicyclists died as a result of a traffic accident, at a rate of 2.6 per million people. This was the highest three-year fatality rate since the mid-2000s. 

Causes of the Bike Accident Fatality-Rise

What is causing the upsurge in bicyclist fatalities? While experts and analysts differ on the reasons, it can largely be attributed to several factors:

Unemployment rates are meager, causing more people to commute to work via car and bike. Bike-share programs are widely utilized, and with the onset of rideshare programs, more cars are driving around, making frequent stops, and waiting for pickups. 


Smartphones Contribute to Accidents in California

In much of America, smartphones have a pervasive presence. While smartphones have made life easier and more convenient, they have also taken lives through distracted driving. 

A recent study by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed that “midblock” collisions that occur between intersections where drivers are traveling at higher speeds are usually the ones causing more significant injuries to bicyclists. Many times, in midblock crashes, the driver never saw the victim before they hit them, often because of distracted driving. Noticing anything while paying attention to a smartphone is difficult, especially if it is a bicyclist that the driver was not expecting to be there.

With more drivers choosing larger trucks and SUV as their preferred method of travel, they are often challenged to see bicyclists due to larger blind spots than their smaller counterparts. These types of vehicles also sit higher off of the ground, making their point of impact to a bike rider more severe. Whereas a car might hit a biker in the leg, a large truck or an SUV will cause a more significant injury by hitting them in the chest or head. 

Gender and Bicycle Accident Fatalities 

Men are more likely to lose their lives in a bicycle accident than women, just like they are more likely to die in other types of fatal traffic accidents. From 2016 too 2018, the ratio of men to women who died in a bicycle accident was almost 8:1. California census figures reveal that men are twice as likely as women to get to work on a bike.

Decreasing Bike Accidents and Fatalities

Industry experts say there are a variety of ways to decrease the number of bike accidents and fatalities. One quick fix: reducing speed limits. The chances of dying in an accident if hit at 20 miles per hour are much lower than if hit at higher speeds. With each increment increase in speed above 20 miles per hour, the survival rate drops substantially. 

Another critical factor in cyclist fatality reduction is to invest in necessary infrastructure. Roads need to be designed so motorists, mass transit users, bicyclists, and pedestrians can navigate their commute safely.

One recent NTSB study calls for more separated bike lanes and utilizing well-marked intersections. Experts state that more bike riders, coupled with good infrastructure, can increase bike safety.

Perhaps because when more bicyclists are sharing the roads, drivers notice them and are more mindful behind the wheel.

Dave Snyder, executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition, states that many California cities have made notable improvements to infrastructure in recent years, making safer roads for cyclists. Although these changes need to spread, Snyder believes that creating safer networks of bikeways that protect bicyclists from high-speed traffic will encourage more people to ride their bikes as well as decrease injuries and fatalities from accidents. 

Technology is another way to reduce fatalities when it comes to bike accidents. The NTSB report strongly encourages cyclists to use reflective gear and wear bike helmets that meet federal safety standards. In addition, automobile technology is assisting in the quest to decrease bike accident fatalities with sensors to help drivers detect people or objects in their blind spots, as well as in front of or behind them.

However, experts warn that drivers should not rely on these safety systems improving and ignore the changes that need to be made to the infrastructure. Utilizing both of these tools to decrease fatalities is what is necessary to have a positive impact. 

Call an Experienced California Bicycle Accident Lawyer Today to Schedule a Free Case Review

When drivers fail to pay attention and participate in distracted driving, be it because of their smartphone or another reason, bicyclists pay with significant injuries and sometimes their lives. These accidents are preventable and happen primarily due to the carelessness of other drivers. If a bicycle accident caused by another motorist has left you with significant injuries or even caused someone you love to lose their life, you have legal rights. You can learn more about those rights by reaching out to a California bike accident attorney.

We have more than two decades of experience serving California injury victims in San Francisco, Riverside, San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento, Sherman Oaks, and throughout California.  Our seasoned personal injury lawyers have recovered over 200 million dollars for our clients. Contact Arash Law today by phone at (888) 488-1391 or online to receive your free case evaluation with an experienced California bike accident lawyer from our law firm. 

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DISCLAIMER: Information provided on this blog is not formal legal advice. It is generic legal information. Under no circumstances should the information on this page be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal action. Always obtain a free and confidential case evaluation from a reputable attorney near you if you think you might have a personal injury lawsuit.

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