Dallas Law Firm Blog

Safety First When Cycling

An article from the Washington Post, citing a study done by the Governor’s Highway Safety Council and funded partially by State Farm Insurance, makes a startling point: despite our best efforts, from bike lanes to new bicycle safety features, equipment and even safety classes for adults, it is more dangerous now to ride a bicycle than at any other time in history. This is true not just in Texas, but across the country.

Why Fatalities Rise

The report suggests several potential reasons for the upswing in both injuries and fatalities. One of the major reasons is the change in demographics. The Post points out that 40 years ago, most bike riders were children. However, in the modern era, while children still ride bicycles, the addition of thousands of adults who ride, whether for exercise or simply for pleasure outside the neighborhood and onto the main roads, has increased the average fatality age to 45.

Texas and National Deaths

Rates of bicycle deaths have been increasing nationally. In Texas alone, The Texas Department of Transportation reports the death of 65 bicyclists in 2016, an increase of 25 percent over 2015.  The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) reports that, in 2015, 818 people were killed nationwide in bicycle accidents involving motor vehicles, an increase of 12.2 percent from the same period in 2014. The estimated number of injuries dropped from 2014, but was still more than 45,000. Perhaps most surprisingly, bicycle injuries and deaths had an estimated economic cost of roughly $4 billion.

Accident Causes

PBIC estimates from a 2012 study that nearly one-third of bicycle injuries are caused by motor vehicles. In total, 29 percent of the injuries occurred when a motor vehicle hit the cyclist; 17 percent were caused by a fall; 13 percent were caused by the poor condition of a roadway/walkway; 13 percent were caused by a cyclist’s inattention or other error; 7 percent happened when a bicycle crashed or collided with an object other than a vehicle; and 4 percent were caused by dogs.

Other Findings

The GHSC report also found that alcohol played a factor in more than one-third of fatal bicycle/vehicle accidents. In  12 percent of the cases, it was the driver who had been drinking; and in 22 percent, it was the cyclist. The report also found:

  • Although 45,000 bicycle-injury accidents were reported in 2015, there were probably more that were not reported. Accidents in which neither cars nor bicycles need to be towed may go unreported by those involved.
  • Almost three-quarters – 72 percent – of accidents occurred on roadways, not at intersections.
  • Just like distracted driving, distracted cycling is also a killer; of 818 bicycling deaths in 2015, 76 were a direct result of distractions.
  • A majority of cyclists killed were not wearing properly fitted safety helmets.
  • While roughly 33 percent of people surveyed stated that they had ridden a bicycle in the last year, the number of children riding bicycles to school has dropped from nearly half in 1969 to only 2.2 percent in 2015.

Solutions

One solution, according to the report, is the implementation of bike-sharing programs, in which specific lanes are created for cyclists. In the cities that have the lanes, only two fatalities have been reported since 2010.

Overall, the numbers should not discourage individuals from riding bicycles. Cycling is an excellent form of exercise and a pollution-free way to travel. What riders should do, however, is put safety first and take all the proper precautions.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a bicycle accident, contact Guajardo & Marks as soon as possible. Working from offices in Dallas, Guajardo & Marks has more than 50 years of legal experience and has the knowledge and resources to help with your legal needs. If you have questions or would like to set up an appointment, contact us online or call us at 972.774.9800.