In most years, about 20 bicyclists are killed on Ohio roads, and fewer than 1,000 are killed nationwide. Those numbers are small compared with other types of traffic fatalities, including pedestrian deaths. Still, motor vehicle-bicycle crashes are a serious problem in Ohio and around the country. And their numbers are increasing.
Bicycle Accident Fatalities Reached a 28-Year High in 2018
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 857 bicyclists were killed in traffic in 2018. That’s the largest number since 1990 and an increase of 37.5% compared with 2010. NHTSA projects that about 3% fewer bike riders were killed in 2019 than 2018, a decline of about 25 deaths nationwide compared with the previous year.
The Covid-19 pandemic and related shutdowns significantly decreased the number of vehicles on the road this spring. Still, Outside Online has collected news reports of 275 bicyclists fatalities so far this year.
Why are More Bicyclists Being Killed?
There are many variables likely impacting the number of bike riders killed in traffic. These include:
- An increase in the popularity of biking–in 1990, about 450,000 Americans rode their bikes to work; by 2017, that number had increased to more than 872,000;
- An increase in distracted driving–bicyclists on the road today face dangers from drivers who are texting, watching video, dialing their phones, and engaging with a variety of other distractions that didn’t exist 20 years ago;
- An increase in driving speeds–the risk of death to a pedestrian or cyclist increases dramatically with a relatively small increase in the speed of the vehicle;
- An increase in the number of cars on the road–in 2019, there were about 278 million cars, SUVs and light trucks on the road, up about 6 million from the previous year;
- An increase in large vehicles on the road–in 2019, 72% of new vehicles sold were SUVs and trucks; bicyclists and pedestrians who are struck by SUVs and similar vehicles are 50% more likely to be killed than those hit by passenger cars.
Non-Fatal Bicycle Accidents are a Serious Problem
While the number of bike accident fatalities is relatively small, the number of injuries is not. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that 306,892 people visited hospital emergency departments as a result of bicycling injuries in 2018. More than 38,000 of those were hospitalized or transferred to another facility.
The same CDC database shows the high cost of those injuries. The cost associated with those hospitalized after bicycle injuries in a single year totaled more than $1.6 billion in medical expenses and more than $4.3 billion in lost work, for a total cost of more than $5.9 billion. Those who were treated and released in emergency departments add another $3.4 billion to the annual cost.
Automobile-Bicycle Fatalities and Injuries are Avoidable
Nearly all car-bike crashes are avoidable. Both drivers and bicyclists can and should take steps to keep bike riders safer on the road. For bicyclists, this means:
- Make sure your bike is well maintained and check it over before hitting the road;
- Wear a helmet;
- Obey traffic safety laws;
- Wear visible clothing, including reflective gear at night;
- Use bike paths and bicycle lanes when possible;
- Avoid high-traffic and high-speed roads when possible;
- Stay alert–avoiding distractions is just important for a cyclist as a driver;
- Don’t bike while intoxicated.
Drivers sharing the road with bicyclists should remain alert for bikes and ensure that they give bicyclists a safe distance when passing. Remember that something as simple as hitting a small rock can cause a cyclist to skid, fall, or swerve. And remember that when you pass a cyclist, especially at high speeds, you may create wind currents that impact the rider’s control of the bike.
Of course, it’s also critical to observe the same safety measures you would use to avoid other types of traffic accidents, such as:
- Maintaining safe speeds;
- Avoiding distractions while driving;
- Obeying traffic signs and signals;
- Staying in your lane;
- Refraining from driving under the influence.
Data from NHTSA suggests that at least 9% of bicycle traffic fatalities involve a speeding driver, at least 16% involve a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and at least 10% involve a distracted driver. 20% are hit-and-runs, which increases the likelihood of death because the injured cyclist may not receive necessary medical attention in time.
Injured Bicyclists May be Entitled to Compensation
If you’ve been injured by a negligent driver while riding a bike or have lost a loved one to a motor vehicle-bicyclist traffic crash, you may be entitled to compensation. The type of damages you may receive vary depending on many factors, but often include:
- Compensation for medical expenses;
- Costs of therapy and other ongoing care;
- Replacement of lost income and compensation for lost earning capacity;
- Compensation for intangibles like pain and suffering.
You may be entitled to damages even if you were partially responsible for the incident that caused your injuries.
The best source of information about your rights and the possible value of your claims is an experienced Ohio personal injury attorney. The attorneys at Plevin & Gallucci are dedicated to helping injured people secure the compensation they need to move forward and rebuild. We offer free consultations to help people in difficult circumstances gather the information they need to make good decisions for the future. You can schedule your consultation by calling 855-4PLEVIN or filling out the contact form on this page.