This post will help you to be informed about bicycle accidents: how they happen, how to prevent them, and what to do if you have a bike accident.
As bicycling has continued to grow in popularity, so has the need for increased laws and regulations regarding cycling safety. While bicycle trips only make up 1% of all United States trips, nearly 130,000 people annually are injured in cycling accidents in the USA. (source: CDC).
Understanding some of the context behind bicycle accidents, paired with a few helpful biking safety tips, will help you avoid potentially dangerous situations.
Fatal Bicycle Accident Statistics
The NHTSA reported on 2019 cyclist traffic safety data that excludes motor vehicles (source: NHTSA). Some of the most relevant takeaways provide insight on bicycle accidents and their most common characteristics and circumstances.
Urban areas accounted for the majority of cyclist fatalities, with nearly three-quarters of all cyclist deaths occurring in urban areas compared to rural ones. Of these fatal accidents, 64% were reported to be in non-intersection areas, despite the complications that intersections cause for cyclists and drivers.
Both the National Safety Council and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that bicycle deaths are more common during the summer months of June, July, and August.
It’s important to understand that these statistics are not meant to definitively provide any takeaway on their own. A multitude of factors influence the causes of bicycle accidents. One study alone isn’t enough to support a broad sweeping narrative about accident causation.
However, becoming a more informed cyclist is a great way to keep yourself and others around you safe from potentially dangerous circumstances. Here are a few actionable tips that can help improve the safety of your rides.
Stay Active and Alert
Obeying basic traffic laws is a great place to start, but even informed bicyclists are still at risk of potential collisions. While in most circumstances bicyclists have the right of way over motorized vehicles, staying active and alert can help reduce your chances of a serious accident. Here are some specific ways to stay active and alert:
- Ride defensively. Be prepared to take evasive action relative to other vehicles by assuming they cannot see you.
- Be proactive. Look ahead for potential potholes or road hazards that could be problematic.
- Minimize distractions. Don’t text or listen to loud music while cycling. This reduces your awareness of oncoming vehicles or pedestrians.
Although additional gear like fluorescent and reflective clothing are suggested to improve rider visibility, motorists often lack the ability to predict cyclists and their intentions. Riding predictably is a great way to inform passing drivers of your intentions and reduce the chances of an accident. Here are a few actionable examples:
- Ride in the same direction as traffic. This is especially important when motorists are changing lanes or entering roads.
- Use hand singles before making turns or changing lanes. Correct hand signals are extremely important when warning immediate traffic.
- Keep pedestrians informed. This can be accomplished by announcing “on your left/right” relative to your positioning on a shared path.
Prepare Before Your Ride
There are specific ways that cyclists can limit their accident risk even before leaving the home. The following precautionary cycling tips can substantially reduce your risk exposure:
- Ensure your bike is the proper size. Maintaining control of your bicycle can be seriously impacted when improperly sized. The proper size can improve your control and ability to practice safe cycling habits. (Related Post: Complete Bike Frame Size Guide for Adult’s Bikes and Kid’s Bikes)
- Pre-plan your route. With 64% of cycling deaths occurring away from intersections, it’s in your best interest to plan routes away from high-speed areas. Choose lower traffic, lower speed routes that minimize your risk of an accident.
- Check your bike’s functionality. Regularly inspecting your bicycle will help prevent any unexpected lapse in functionality resulting in an accident. In many areas, such as California, it’s against the law to ride a bicycle without properly working brakes.
Important Steps Following a Bicycle Accident
If you were unable to avoid a bicycle accident, there are a few important steps that can help ensure the success of any injury or accident claim.
- Seek medical attention. Not only is it important to get help for anyone who needs it, but medical documentation following an accident will help determine the legal extent of any injuries involved.
- Collect photos and evidence at the scene. Doing this will ensure any legal case regarding injury or damages will be able to determine the full picture of what occurred.
- Do not admit fault. This is vital when discussing the accident with the police, insurance agents, or other parties. Admitting fault before examining the facts and evidence surrounding an accident can limit your ability to receive fair compensation.
- Avoid formal statements with insurance agents. Signing any agreements or making any formal statements with insurance companies hinders your ability to make future injury claims. Take the time to look over the evidence you’ve collected and determine the full extent of your injuries.
We hope that this post will help you to avoid bike accidents. And if it does not, we hope it will help you to cope, should you be unfortunate enough to have a bike accident.
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