Fatal bicycle accidents: alarming trends prompt need for safety tips

It’s a glaring mismatch that can’t end well. When a motor vehicle strikes a bicycle, the cyclist often suffers significant and life-threatening injuries.

And these types of collisions are increasing. In this article, we’ll take note of the serious trend toward more fatal bicycle accidents and offer safety tips for preventing them.

Increasing number of bicyclists killed

Leading safety organizations report slightly different numbers, but clearly the trend toward an increasing number of fatal bicycle accidents is very concerning.

According to the National Safety Council, in 2020 alone, 1,260 cyclists lost their lives, a five percent increase from 2019. Of those, 806 involved motor vehicles, a 16 percent increase from the previous year and a 44 percent rise from the last ten years. Injuries numbered nearly 426,000. Not only have devastating personal injury and deaths increased, but the estimated costs also annually of these accidents are up to $23 billion. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 938 bicyclists losing their lives in motor vehicle crashes in 2020, a nearly nine percent increase from 2019.

Age and gender play a role in many bike-related fatalities, with adults 55 to 69 leading that tragic demographic. Conversely, 10 to 24-year-olds account for one-third of emergency room occupants suffering injuries nationwide. Males are six times more likely to die and five times more likely to get hurt.

Failing to yield the right-of-way represents the most common factor in fatal bicycle accidents. Second is the cyclist not being visible. Bicyclists losing their lives account for approximately two percent of all fatalities caused by motor vehicles every year.

Safety tips to prevent bike accidents

Considering that the two top causes of vehicle/bicycle collisions are due to bicyclists not being seen and vehicle operators failing to yield to bicyclists, what can you do to keep yourself safe?

Make sure you follow the rules of the road for bicyclists in your state. When bicyclists use a sidewalk instead of a road, motorists often assume they have the right-of-way since they are on the road. Use the road, and at intersections use the proper right-of-way rules to avoid being waved ahead by a motorist. In turn, avoid waving a motorist ahead as well. Though this may seem like a polite gesture, if another motorist is approaching the intersection and is unaware of the communication between you and another driver, they may continue on, causing an accident.

Before you venture out on  your bike, make sure you are wearing reflective clothing and a helmet. Install lights on your bicycle as well as reflectors on your wheels and handlebars and use hand signals to communicate your intentions. Consider adding  a side view mirror to your helmet to give you more awareness of your surroundings, and a bell or horn to alert motorists of your presence in a blind spot.

Bicyclists and motorists can coexist when bikers establish themselves with a solid presence on the roads and implement a few defensive tactics for safety.

For more tips, see Mr. VanMeveren’s bike safety videos and his book, Your Guide to Cycling Safety in Colorado.