We often think of riding a bike as an almost innocent activity. However, with the rise in mobile technology and fall of average attention spans, the rates of bicycle accidents have been increasing. In a world full of roadway distractions, it is more important than ever to protect yourself while riding your bike in California.
The injuries sustained in these accidents can be medically, emotionally, and financially devastating. In this piece, James McKiernan Lawyers aims to provide all the information you need on California bicycle accidents, how to avoid them, and what to do if you are hurt.
Bicycle Accidents in California
According to data pulled from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) database, the average number of bicycle accidents per year increased towards the end of the 2010s.
From 2015 to 2019, there were an average of 873 fatal and 51,257 injury-only accidents per year involving cyclists and motorists nationwide. Compare that to the 15-year average from 2005 to 2019 which saw a yearly average of 786 fatal and 49,479 injury-only accidents across the country. Recent years have seen an uptick in incident rates.
Florida is the most dangerous state for road cyclists with an average of 6.8 fatal bike accidents per million residents. Meanwhile, South Dakota and Vermont are the safest states with averages of 0.0 and 0.5 fatal bike accidents per million residents, respectively.
California sits closer to Florida with 3.9 fatal bike accidents per million residents, which is higher than the national average of 2.60 collisions. The state also has a much higher rate of male cyclist deaths in these impacts with 8 male deaths for every female death.
Staying Safe While Riding
As standards have increased for riding gear, driver liability, and overall road safety, there are still things that cyclists can do to stay safe on the road.
Organizations like the NHTSA are dedicated to ensuring that standards for driver behavior and vehicle safety continuously improve. This generates progress in ensuring safer roadways, but it would be unwise to assume that drivers are 100% responsible for all cyclist accidents.
While it is best to choose a cycling spot that has less traffic and more cycling infrastructure—such as bike lanes and side roads—it is not always possible to find the perfect environment. By consistently wearing a protective helmet and never assuming that others can see you, your chances of remaining safe improve substantially.
In America, 22 out of 50 states have statewide laws requiring the use of a bicycle helmet while riding. California is one of those states, mandating that anyone under 18 is required to wear a helmet. Although this law only applies to children, adults should also heed this warning and make it a habit to ride as safely as possible.
Studies have shown that there are many reasons why injuries sustained during a bicycle accident can be traumatic and life-altering. According to the National Safety Council (NSC):
- Between 50% and 71% of all bicyclists killed while riding do not wear helmets
- Helmets reduce brain and head injuries by 65-88%
- More than 2/3 of all injured cyclists under the age of 17 don’t wear helmets while riding
- Men are 7% less likely than women to wear helmets
Although it seems commonplace, a helmet can literally save your life. Since you cannot control the drivers around you, this is a simple yet effective way to reduce your chances of sustaining life-altering injuries.
Recently, there have been major advancements in the design of bicycle helmets. Newer models are held to a higher standard of safety ratings and are better equipped to protect both your head and neck.
Riding Safely on Highways and Busy Streets
Heavily populated states like California and areas like San Luis Obispo are more prone to cyclist accidents due to the sheer amount of traffic. As more commuters opt for eco-friendly options like cycling, the bike lanes themselves have become more congested, further increasing the likelihood of collisions.
The distraction of cell phones has created an added danger for pedestrians and cyclists alike, making it even more important to adopt safe cycling practices. If you are thinking about biking more and you want to know how to navigate your busy city streets, here are some basic cycling practices for staying safe on the road:
- Pass other cyclists on the far edge of the lane: Just like when you are driving, you should pass other cyclists the same way: use the far left of the bike lane to pass others. If the bike lane is to the left of traffic, pass on the right.
- Lock your bike: Big cities have a bigger chance of theft, so it is crucial to learn how to keep your bike safe from thieves. Buy a heavy-duty bike lock and secure your gear properly.
- Buy the right bike: For city bikers, it is best to purchase a simple, single-speed bike—they are lighter and require less maintenance. If you live in a hilly city, you could go for a multi-speed bicycle which will help you maintain a safe speed.
- Know your route: Bicyclists need to be extra vigilant while riding through the city. A pothole or other roadblocks can cause serious injuries.
- Be aware of your surroundings: Cyclists are a smaller visual target, making them difficult to see. Wearing bright, reflective clothing and remaining aware of any pedestrians and vehicles in the area is the safest way to ensure your own safety.
Getting Help in Case of Injury
If you are unfortunate enough to get into a bicycle accident, it is important to document whatever you can as quickly as you can. Depending on the situation, you may be legally entitled to compensation for either injuries or property damage sustained in the crash.
For residents of California who are involved in a bike accident, our dedicated professionals at James McKiernan Lawyers will fight on your behalf to make sure your needs are taken care of.
You can contact our office located in San Luis Obispo County to schedule a consultation and hear more information about how we can help.