After hitting an all-time low in 2010, bicycle deaths have risen 12 percent nationwide, the largest increase in two decades and outpacing the overall rise all traffic fatalities, according to a new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association. But contrary to four decades ago, adults rather than children are more likely to die in a bicyclist-vehicle crash today.
According to the report, which received funding from State Farm Insurance, in 1975 younger bicyclists accounted for almost 80 percent of fatalities, but in 2015 that number dropped to 11 percent. In 2015, 720 adults were killed bicycling, up from 212 in 1975. After steadily rising over the past four decades, today the average age of a bicyclist killed in traffic is now 45.
While bicycle deaths are often undercounted, the report contributes part of the decline in bike deaths among children and teen to a massive drop in biking and walking trips taken to and from school. It linked the tripling of adult bicyclists killed to low car ownership rates and rising bike ridership among millennials.
According to a press release accompanying the report, “A unifying theme in many of these crashes is that the motorist often fails to see the bicyclist, while the bicyclist expects the driver to give way and is unable to stop in time to avoid a crash. This illustrates the need for all people to pay attention to their surroundings whenever they take to the road.”
At 2 percent, bicyclists represent the smallest percent of injuries or deaths from traffic accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Data analyzed in the report found though 80 percent of bike trips are taken during the day, crashes were fairly evenly distributed between day and night. With 41 percent of accidents happening between 6 pm and midnight.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, failure to yield right of way accounts for the highest percentage of bicyclist deaths at 25 percent, and an unseen bicyclist visible wearing dark clothes or lacking lighting represent 11 percent of total bike deaths.
This reports also lists alcohol and distracted driving as common factors in crashes. Of the 818 bicyclists killed in 2015, alcohol played a role in 37 percent of those fatal accidents, according to the report. With 22 percent of fatally injured cyclists or 12 percent of the motorists in these crashes had blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08 or higher. And distracted drivers in the U.S. killed 79 bicyclists in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Interestly, when it came to location of crash in the roadway, only 28 percent of all bicyclist fatalities occur at intersections.
Other notable statistics from the report:
- Since 2011 an average of 55 additional bicyclists have died annually on U.S. roads
- Separated bike lanes are up to 89 percent safer than streets with parked cars and no cycling facilities
- 54 percent of the bicyclists killed in 2015 were not wearing a helmet
- With more men than women riding, male bicyclists are almost six times more likely to be killed than female cyclists — unchanged since 1975