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California Leads U.S. in Bicycle Deaths

In the latest report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, California was named one of the most dangerous states for bicycling and lead all other states in bicyclist deaths. Between 2010 and 2012, the organization reports that California saw 338 bicycle deaths due to collisions with motor vehicles. California and only four other states, in fact, made up 54% of all bicycle collision deaths nationwide.

These numbers are in stark comparison to other states--some that only had five or fewer deaths. It should also be noted that these alarming numbers are not due to California's size. In 2012 alone, California had the second highest proportion of bicyclist accident deaths in the country with 4.3%, a statistic it shares with Massachusetts.

Many states, California especially, have seen a spike in bicycling popularity in the last few years. This has mainly been due to a rise in health and environmental consciousness in our communities, but with this increase comes more risk and hazards for bicyclists. Over the two year span covered in the GHSA report, bicyclist deaths in America rose 16%.

Why the increase of danger?

With the rising popularity of bicycling has come a number of growing pains in traffic safety. It is well-documented how motorists can ignore or forget to check for bicyclists around them and how, in general, those on bikes can feel marginalized on the road. These are matters for local legislature and neighborhood awareness-- and many cities, San Francisco included, have made great strides in incorporating bicycling into its roadways and communities.

Surprisingly, however, the GHSA report also details two leading causes of these deaths that do not involve motorist behavior: alcohol and helmet use. According to the report, more than two thirds of killed bicyclists were not wearing helmets. Even more shocking were the statistics offered on intoxicated bicyclist deaths.

The GHSA report provides the following alcohol-related statistics:

  • More than a quarter of 2012 bicycle deaths involved intoxicated bicyclists
  • The percentage of fatally injured, intoxicated bicyclists between 1982 and 2012 is estimated to be as high as 33%
  • Between 1982 and 1992, car driver intoxication fell sharply, while bicyclist intoxication remained consistent

Improving Bicycle Safety

Certainly, there is much that motorists, bicyclists and our communities at large can do to improve bicycle safety in San Francisco and all of California. GHSA closes its report with a number of recommended measures that can be taken by municipalities to improve road safety for all, including the establishment of bike lanes, improved road signage, and community education efforts. These solutions, however, may take time, but one thing is certain: vigilance by both motorists and bicyclists can start reducing these unfortunate instances today.

If you or a loved one has been hurt while bicycling by a motor vehicle, then we encourage you to contact us at the Law Office of Scott Righthand, P.C. Our proven, award-winning San Francisco personal injury attorney is ready to assess your case and hear your needs during a free consultation.

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