Health-conscious Californians are cycling in greater and greater numbers, but with more cyclists on the road, California’s roads are less safe now than they’ve been in 25 years, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
From 2016 to 2018, more cyclists died in traffic accidents across California than during any other three-year period going back to 1994. 455 cyclists were killed in California between 2016 and 2018, or about 3.9 bike accident fatalities per million people. For the US as a whole, those figures are 2,516 crash deaths and 2.6 fatalities per million people.
What’s behind the uptick in cycling fatalities? Among the likely contributing factors:
- Americans are driving more. American drivers set a new record for annual vehicle miles traveled in 2018, at over 3.21 trillion miles – up from 3.03 trillion a decade before.
- Distracted driving is on the rise, thanks to cellphones. The NHTSA pegs the toll at 3,166 lives lost in 2017 to distracted driving.
- More cars on the road are SUVs. More SUVs mean more cars with larger blind spots.
Of course, it’s not just California that’s seen an increase in bike fatalities. Cycling traffic deaths are on the rise across the nation as a whole, with the three-year death rate the highest it’s been since the mid-2000s. There were more cycling fatalities in New York City in 2019 than in any year since 2000.
Meanwhile, US lawmakers should be looking to their counterparts in Europe for inspiration on how to cut down on traffic deaths. City leaders in Helsinki, Finland, and Oslo, Norway, announced that they’d achieved zero pedestrian and cycling fatalities on their streets in the year 2019 – a far cry from the reality experienced on streets in America.
Drivers have a responsibility to be extra-vigilant in watching for cyclists and pedestrians, with whom they share the road. Cyclists, stay safe out there!
Have you been involved in a bicycle accident? Contact us at Hogan Injury for expert legal advice.