Ways to Reduce Bicycle-Vehicle Crashes Studied

North America News - September 2017

With bicyclist road deaths on the rise, the Governors Highway Safety Association is urging states to better address the problem - including improving collection of data on bicycle-motor vehicle crashes and establishing funding for more bicyclist safety initiatives.

A new report from the GHSA, “A Right to the Road: Understanding and Addressing Bicyclist Safety,” details the scope of the problem and offers 30 different actions that states can take to bolster bicycle safety.

In 2015, the most recent year for which final federal crash data are available, bicyclist deaths rose 12.2% — the largest percentage increase of all roadway user groups that year.

Other GHSA recommendations in the report include polling bicyclists to gauge their education and training needs, taking advantage of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s bicycle training tools, educating bicyclists and motorists about intersection safety, allowing the use of automated enforcement to deter speeding and red-light running, and promoting law enforcement’s use of technology to enforce safe passing laws.

A total of 818 bicyclists died in 2015 because of traffic crashes. But unlike decades ago, when children and teens represented the bulk of bicyclist fatalities, adults accounted for 88% of these deaths. The average age of those killed was 45, and 85% of them were male, researchers discovered.

Seventy percent of fatal bicycle-motor vehicle crashes occur in urban settings, according to the report, and 72% occur at locations that aren’t an intersection. Though 80% of cycling trips take place during daylight hours, 47% of fatal crashes occur at night.

Bicycle-motor vehicle crashes often result because a motorist fails to notice a nearby bicyclist, the report said. Conversely, bicyclists tend to assume that vehicle drivers will always see them and readily relinquish the right-of-way.

Additional recommended measures in the GHSA report include following street design standards that foster bicyclist safety, clarifying state laws to address bicycling while impaired, allowing communities to lower speed limits or establish slow zones in areas with a history of bicycle-motor vehicle crashes, and partnering with bicycling and community groups to deliver safety programs.

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