Some Things Change, Some Stay the Same: Bicycle Accidents & Rider Fatalities Over the Years

The Brod Law Firm has long been dedicated to protecting bicycle riders in Northern California. Attorney Brod is a member of the Marin County and San Francisco Bicycle Coalitions and he has many years’ experience representing bicycle accident victims. Throughout the years, much has changed…the phrase “texting while driving” would have elicited confused stares when Attorney Brod passed the Bar in 1996…and yet much has remained the same…distracted drivers remain one of the greatest threats to bicycle riders’ safety. Our firm changes our approach and strategies over the years, adapting to current times, but our commitment to being a top-notch law firm for bicycle riders in Oakland and throughout the Northern California region remains.

Study Identifies Increase in Bicycle Fatalities and Changes in Rider Profiles
The Oakland Tribune reported this week on the findings in a report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association. Among the most distressing statistics — bicycle fatalities in the U.S. increased by 16% from 2010 (621 deaths) to 2012 (722 deaths). This far exceeded the rate of bikeshadow.jpgincrease in other forms of motor vehicle deaths which rose by just 1%. Focusing on California reveals even more troubling numbers. California had more bicycle deaths than any other state in the study period, 338 cyclists killed between 2010 and 2012. While this might be attributed to population and climate, California was also (along with Florida) one of the states with the highest increase in annual rider fatalities growing from 100 deaths in 2010 to 123 in 2012. Nationally, bicyclist deaths are about 2% of the all motor vehicle related fatalities. In California, the percentage is just over 4%.

One of the analysts involved in the study, Alan Williams, noted that there have been significant changes over the years in the profile of those killed in bicycle accidents. In 1975, adults over age 20 made up 21% of bicyclist deaths. In 2012, that percentage skyrocketed to 84%. Additionally, some evidence points to a change in the reason riders are travelling, with more commuters opting for two-wheeled travels.

Despite the changes, some things remained the same. The percentage of fatally injured riders who had high blood alcohol concentrations remained pretty constant from the 1980s to the present, despite a sharp drop in the percentage of drivers who were similarly impaired. Similarly, the failure to wear helmets remained a significant factor in bicyclist deaths.

Reversing the Trend: Cities, Riders, Drivers, and Legal Representation
The Oakland Times cited a number of steps cities can take to reverse the rise in bicycle rider fatalities. Many of the changes involved providing a dedicated space for bicycle riders. “Bike boxes,” spaces before an intersection for bikes only, help prevent the most common crash scenario — cars making right turns into the path of a bicyclist with the right of way (“right hooks”). More specific recommendations for “road advocacy” can be found on the Marin County Bicycle Coalition’s website. These recommendations focus on creating a network of bicycle paths with the goal of having 20% of all trips in Marin County made on foot or on a bicycle.

Road design can help, but ultimately preventing accidents is in the hands of riders and drivers. When drivers fail to pay attention to riders, they put riders (and themselves) at risk. This was true when we opened our firm’s doors; it remains true today. As a law firm for bicycle riders in Santa Rosa and all of Northern California, we provide legal representation to riders and their families when a bicyclist is hurt or killed because of someone else’s negligent or wrongful acts. Call to discuss your unique case.

See Related Blog Posts:
California Bicycle Riders’ Law Firm Examines Bicycle Accident Statistics
The (Dangerous) Streets of San Francisco and the Role of the City in Pedestrian and Cyclist Injuries