GHSA report shows bicycle fatalities have increased 16% in recent years

28 Oct 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

Bicycle Fatalities Increasing in California, New Report Says.

Bicyclist deaths have been on the rise nationwide in the past few years, and one of the biggest jumps was seen in California — where 338 people died while biking between 2010 and 2012, according to a new study that also looked at some common factors in the deaths. In its annual Spotlight on Highway Safety: Bicyclist Safety report, the Governors Highway Safety Association found that Illinois rounded out the five states with highest rates of bicyclist fatalities.If you are going to be killed by a car while riding a bicycle, there’s a good chance you are male, older than 20 and living in California or Florida.IOWA CITY — A new report shows that after decades of declining bicycle fatalities, cycling deaths from vehicle collisions have increased by 16 percent in recent years.

California, with 338 cyclists killed in collisions with motor vehicles, and Florida, with 329, had the highest totals during that period, the report said. The increase is most noticeable among adult males and in urban areas. “I think it means it’s time we work on a plan and devote more resources to bike and traffic safety,” said Mark Wyatt, executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition.

The “Bicycle Safety” report released by the GHSA shows a 16 percent increase in bicyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes — from 621 in 2010 to 722 in 2012 — compared to a 1 percent increase among all other modes of transportation. Bicycle fatalities are increasingly an urban phenomenon, accounting for 69 percent of all bicycle fatalities in 2012, compared with 50 percent in 1975.

Two-thirds of those killed in 2012 were not wearing helmets, and more than a quarter of riders over the age of 16 who died had blood-alcohol levels of .08 or higher (the legal limit for driving in California). The report also suggests providing a buffer zone between vehicle and bike traffic; enforcing laws for cyclists and motorists; wearing bike helmets; and improving education. Just six states, California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Michigan and Texas, accounted for 54% of all cycling traffic fatalities from 2010 through 2012.

Bicyclists killed are predominantly males (88 percent in 2012), and lack of helmet use and alcohol impairment continue to contribute to bicyclist deaths. Allan Williams, formerly the top scientist at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, analyzed fatality data to uncover bicyclist crash patterns and compile the report. Williams, “is that the percentage of fatally injured bicyclists with high BACs has remained relatively constant since the early 1980s and did not mirror the sharp drop in alcohol-impaired driving that occurred among passenger vehicle drivers in the 1980s and early 1990s.” State Highway Safety Offices are giving bicyclist safety considerable attention, despite bicyclists representing two percent of overall motor vehicle-related fatalities, a proportion that has remained constant since 1975. “Many states are dedicating resources to ensuring the safety of all roadway users, including bicyclists, by investing in educating bicyclists and motorists, promoting helmet use, enforcing motor vehicle laws and implementing infrastructure changes,” said Jonathan Adkins, GHSA Executive Director. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition revealed that in San Francisco, the number of people riding bicycles has doubled between 2006 and now and that in 2013, four cyclists were killed in the city.

As an example, the New York Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee promotes helmet use by funding bicycle helmet distribution programs and proper fit training. In Florida, police officers are stopping bicyclists who ride without lights at night, providing lights to those who are less able to afford them and helping to affix them to bikes. Adkins stressed that helmet laws are an effective countermeasure particularly with so many inexperienced riders expected to choose bicycling in the coming years. Milly Ortiz, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator at the Iowa Department of Transportation, said the state is working on Iowa’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, which is due to be presented to the public as a draft next spring. Twenty-one states have helmet laws for younger riders, but no state has a universal helmet law and twenty-nine states do not have any kind of bicycle helmet law.

Williams said there were mixed data on whether cycling is increasing in the U.S., although he did say there is some evidence that suggests there are more bicycle commuters than in previous years. Julie Lewis an award-winning journalist, Julie Lewis is a highly respected expert on key issues that are on the top of the minds of investors and consumers around the world—particularly energy and commodities prices and overall personal financial security. The GHSA report found that fatalities among those aged 20 and older swung from 21 percent of the total in 1975 to 84 percent in 2012, including 74 percent that were adult males. On the engineering side, several states are adopting Complete Streets policies, which take into consideration all travel modes when building and/or improving existing roadway systems.

Adkins noted that while bicyclist fatalities are a problem in some states, unlike many highway safety challenges, this is not necessarily a national issue. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices.

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