Bicycling is a fantastic pastime that has many positive health benefits and environmental impacts. A recent publication by the Harvard Medical School, for example, notes that bicycling can improve your joint and bone health, improve your blood flow and heart function, and build up valuable muscles that help with everyday activities. 

Unfortunately, however, bicycling also has significant associated risks. Cyclists must share the road with far larger, heavier, and faster vehicles that do not always take proper care to ensure the safety of smaller vehicles like bikes and their riders. This article explores some alarming statistics regarding bicycle accidents in general, and front-impact accidents in particular.

If you have been injured in a traffic accident as a cyclist, and if you believe you suffered those injuries because the other involved motorist, cyclist, or pedestrian acted negligently, you should consider consulting an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. 

Bicycle Accident Statistics Overview

The statistics for bicycle accidents in the U.S. are sobering. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported in 2015 that there were a staggering 467,000+ bicycle-related injuries in the U.S. Close to 1,000 bicyclists died as a result of those accidents — close to two people every day. This number has held relatively constant. For example, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), 783 bicyclists were killed in traffic accidents in 2017.  Alarmingly, fatal and non-fatal bicycle accidents resulted in lifetime medical costs and impaired productivity that constituted approximately $10 billion in losses.  

NHTSA reports that almost 37% of bicycle fatalities involved the use of alcohol by either the cyclist or a motor vehicle driver. Most deaths involved head injuries, underscoring the critical importance of wearing proper protective gear. Most bicycle accident fatalities occur in urban areas, but, counter-intuitively, deaths tend to occur outside of intersections (only approximately 36% of bicycle deaths occurred at intersections).  Most bicycle fatalities occur in the evening around rush hour and dusk, from 6-9 p.m., regardless of season. This statistic indicates that proper reflective gear and attention to your surroundings at high-traffic or congested times can mean the difference between life and death. 

Description of Common Types of Bicycle Accidents and Associated Statistics 

There are a number of common types of accidents that may cause bicycle injuries or even deaths; some but not all of these common causes of collisions involve motorists. 

  • Bicyclists can suffer injuries due to dangerous street conditions, whether those conditions are caused by physical problems with paving or street grading, planning problems like a lack of bike lanes or bike lanes that are too narrow, or even slick road conditions that could have been reduced or prevented by using better surface materials.  
  • Bicyclists can also suffer injuries due to a driver swinging a car door open right in from of them while they are moving too quickly to brake or maneuver around the thoughtless car owner.  
  • Cyclists can also be pushed off the road or cut-off, usually while they are waiting alongside a car at a red light. For example, the cyclist may attempt to move forward through the intersection when the light turns green, while the car driver, who may not see the cyclist, may attempt to turn right, cutting off the cyclist and forcing them off the road (or, even worse, potentially side-swiping the cyclist).  
  • Finally, cyclists face the risk of being t-boned, hit from behind, or even struck in a head-on collision, many situations which involve a motor vehicle driver’s negligence.  

Many cyclists think that their risk of fatality is highest in a front-impact or head-on collision, but the statistics regarding those collisions lead to an even more alarming conclusion, discussed further below. 

The Scary Truth About Front-Impact or Head-On Bicycle Collisions 

Head-on or front-impact bicycle accidents may be the most dramatic type of accident that cyclists can think of, but they are not the most common. Case in point: a 21-year study by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation found that only 3.6% of bicycle accidents in the area observed by the study were head-on collisions; a whopping 72.4% were caused by collisions at an angle — left or right hooks, consistent with the side-swiping or cut-off type accidents discussed above.  

A similar study by the American League of Bicyclists, drawn from NHTSA bicycle traffic fatality statistics, found that head-on collisions accounted for only 8% of the accidents studied; the plurality of the accidents (a very high 40%) was caused by rear-end collision, the exact opposite of a head-on collision. Thus, although cyclists should certainly be concerned about the possibility of a front-impact collision (8% of bicycle fatalities involve those types of collisions, as discussed above), cyclists unfortunately have much more to fear. 

In other words, this head-on collision data leads to a troubling conclusion — if you are going to be killed in a collision while riding your bicycle, you likely will not see the accident coming. You may not be able to swerve or maneuver to avoid it. A car or truck may hit you from behind or may cut you off, leaving you no room to maneuver. This conclusion indicates that mirrors, reflective gear, and careful situation awareness can be essential to your well-being while you are out on the road. 

An Advocate You Can Trust

If you were injured by a careless or negligent driver while riding your bike, you should consult with a personal injury lawyer right away to determine your chances of recovering monetary damages and the valuation of your claim. 

At The Bowling Law Firm, our team of personal injury attorneys have helped countless clients successfully recover the compensation they were entitled to following a bike accident. For a complimentary review of your case, contact us today.