A Spike in Bicyclist Accidents is Genuine Cause for Alarm

by Terry Bryant

The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) reports that in Houston and Harris County, seven bicycle fatalities occurred each year from 2008 to 2010, followed by 10 cyclist deaths in 2011, and eight in 2012. The statistics for 2013 show a dozen Houston area cyclists were killed, all but one having been hit by another vehicle. And from 2013-2016, according to the Houston Press, nearly 1,700 cyclists were hit by cars on Houston streets: 25% of those drivers fled the scene of the accident, making them hit-and-runs.

In Houston, like other parts of the U.S., many residents are turning (or returning) to bicycles for transportation, health, and enjoyment. Bicycles are now viewed as vehicles, with as much right to use our streets as cars and trucks. And as such, bicyclists must follow the same rules of the road as motor vehicles. But the harsh reality is that bicyclists are much more vulnerable to injury or even death as they are harder for other motorists to see and have virtually no protection from injury in a collision, save for a helmet.  In many vehicle-bicycle accidents, one or the other is simply not paying enough attention. Sadly, many Texas drivers look on bicyclists as nuisances, when they see them at all.  This is why bicycling in our state, especially in Houston, can be a nightmare for those who would rather pedal than drive.

A recent report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), with funding from a grant through State Farm insurance, found an increase in bike deaths of 12% in 2015, which outpaced the cumulative rise in all U.S. traffic fatalities for that year. The report also found that alcohol played a role in 37% of fatal bike crashes.  Drivers did the drinking in 12% of the wrecks, while bike riders had been drinking in 22% – which was significantly down from 38% in 2007.  Other highlights of the GHSA research include:

  • An estimated 45,000 cyclists were injured in crashes in 2015.
  • The majority of fatal bike crashes – 72% – took place on open roadways rather than at intersections.
  • Distracted driving caused 76 cyclist deaths out of 818 in 2015.
  • More than half of cyclists killed were not wearing a helmet.
  • Bike fatalities were evenly split at 47% between those riding in daylight and those riding after dark, even though only 20% of bike rides take place after dark.
  • One-third of those surveyed said they had biked in the past year, but the number of children biking to school has dropped from almost half the number of those who pedaled to school in 1969.

Bicycle lanes and helmets reduce the risk of death. According to Helmets.org, an organization that advocates cycling helmet use, the cause of death in almost three-quarters of all fatal bicycle collisions the past few years (74%) was some sort of head injury. Nearly all bicyclists who died (97%) were not wearing a helmet. Helmet use among those bicyclists with serious injuries was low (13%), but it was even lower among bicyclists killed (3%).

And even though a helmet is little protection from the careless drivers who fail to share the road with cyclists, we can help protect your compensation rights when you are injured by a negligent driver while riding your bike.

If you or a loved one has been injured while cycling, please consider scheduling a free consultation with Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law. Contact us today by filling out our online contact form or giving us a call at (800) 444-5000 or locally in the Houston area at (713) 973-8888.