A recent report from the Governors Highway Safety Association points out some very disturbing statistics regarding fatal bicycle accidents. The GHSA represents state transportation safety agencies and this report, authored by Allan Williams, is a cause for concern among its member agencies. The most disturbing fact was the news that the number of US bicyclist killed in traffic accidents actually increased in 2011 and 2012. Fortunately, there is an overall decline in cycling fatalities stretching back into the 1970s. The report noted that 722 American cyclists died in motor vehicle crashes in 2012, an increase of 42 deaths over the 2011 statistics, and an increase of 101 over the 2010 reported cyclist deaths. This is an increase of 16% over those two years, and during that same time period, motor vehicle deaths increased by 1%.

The report found that most of the cyclist deaths considered  in the three-year period  of the study occurred in California, Florida, Texas, New York, Illinois and Michigan. The author concluded that the states are high population states with many urban areas, and the statistics likely reflect a high level of bicycle exposure and interaction with motor vehicles. The report supported this conclusion, finding that 69% of 2012 deaths occurred in urban areas, and more than one in three occurred at intersections.

The growing number of cyclists who are killed are adult men, the study found, noting that adult men account for three out of every four cyclist deaths. Boys who are 20 or younger make up 14%, while adult females constitute 10%, and girls 20 or younger comprise 2%. The GHSA determined that 65% of the by cyclists killed were not wearing helmets, and the report concluded that the lack of universal helmet use laws for bicyclists is a serious impediment to reducing deaths and injuries resulting from both collisions with motor vehicles and in falls from bicycles not involving motor vehicles.

The report commented that there are some indications that the increase in cycling deaths correspond with an increase in the numbers of cyclists overall, but there is a lack of sufficient data to support this conclusion. In fact, it is not known whether more Americans are riding bicycles. The clear conclusions for you, the reader, are as follows:

  1. Always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle;
  2. Ride in rural or suburban settings whenever possible, and avoid urban settings;
  3. Exercise extra vigilance when approaching and entering intersections, especially urban intersections.

If you would like to read the full report, please click here.