Many people feel discouraged from riding in California when they consider the risks that await them. Unfortunately, when operating passenger vehicles, drivers are notorious for failing to notice bicycle riders and causing accidents. Because cyclists have far less protection than drivers, the risk of personal injury climbs exponentially. Is it really as bad as people fear it is, though?
According to U.S. News, 2016 to 2018 saw a higher death rate among cyclists in traffic accidents than in any other three-year time period over the past quarter of a decade. In California alone, 455 cyclists died in traffic accidents during the aforementioned time period. The total figure across the country stood at 2,516.
The Factors Leading to Scary Bicycle Accidents
In the past decade or so, bicycle riding became part of the efforts to create healthier and more active lifestyles. Statista estimates that 12.4% of Americans rode their bicycles regularly in 2016. In fact, by 2017, there were 47.5 million cyclists. This represented a sharp rise from 43 million just three years prior. Many researchers attribute the uptick in bicycle accidents to the rise in popularity.
However, as gas prices plunged over the past few years, drivers also spend more time on the roads. Add distracted driving to the equation, and it becomes a recipe for disaster. To make matters even worse, the lower gas prices also led many Americans to size up to crossovers, SUVs and pickup trucks. These vehicles increase the risk of severe personal injury during a crash.
Another problem associated with SUVs and other large vehicles compared to smaller cars is deeper blind spots. Not surprisingly, reduced visibility increases the likelihood of a crash with cyclists and the potential for going up against a personal injury lawyer.
The Demographic Data of Scary Bicycle Accidents
Men often tend to have higher mortality rates anywhere in the world. Social scientists say this results from the fact that men feel more comfortable taking risks. The same is true of cycling. Women tend to prefer to ride in areas with designated bike lanes or on trails. Men are more likely to risk riding in busy areas with bumper-to-bumper traffic and impatient drivers. In California, men are also twice as likely to ride their bicycles to work than women.
For all these reasons, men represent a much larger portion of the cyclists who die in traffic accidents. To put this into better perspective, when it comes to California alone, for every eight men that die in bicycle accidents, only one woman dies.
The Steps Cities Can Take To Reduce Fatalities
As alluded to before, creating designated areas for bike riders remains one of the best ways to provide safer riding spaces. Forbes names cities in California, France and Italy as some of the jurisdictions around the world that have done exactly this. Some people argue that with traffic as bad as it is in California, taking away spaces from motor vehicles to give to cyclists and pedestrians might make the problem worse. Others point out that if it were safer to ride, more people would do so, leading to fewer vehicles on the streets.
Cities can also consider lowering the speed limit on streets that cyclists frequent. Medical experts believe that most healthy cyclists can survive a crash with a motor vehicle at 20 mph, but as the speed climbs, the survival rate declines. A study published this year by the U.S. National Library of Medicine also reports that 20-mph zones reduce the likelihood of collisions involving cyclists overall. This might stem from the fact that drivers have more time to look carefully and react appropriately.
Creating and enforcing universal helmet laws can also play a role. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advocates for universal helmet laws and reports that when in place, helmet use rises to nearly 100%. Helmet laws sometimes only apply to motorcyclists, but a few states include cyclists as well. When worn, helmets and other safety gear offer some protection from head and other bodily injuries that might otherwise lead to death, disability and the need for a lawyer.
The Bottom Line
While bicycle accidents and the risk of personal injury might seem scary, many people see the risks as worth taking. Ultimately, that is a decision each bike rider needs to make before venturing out onto city streets. In the meantime, California has several bike-friendly trails available that might provide the perfect opportunities to enjoy exercise and the sheer joy of riding.
If you do take to the streets and suffer a personal injury, an attorney can help. Contact Peach & Weathers to schedule a free consultation today.