Despite safety strides, California still has high bicycle accident rate

California continues to have high rates of injury-causing bicycle accidents in spite of increased safety measures.

Though federal, state, and local lawmakers and authorities have made significant efforts to curb bicycle accidents, they still occur with alarming frequency along California roadways. The state has one of the highest bicycle use rates in the nation, due in no small part to much of the state having such a temperate climate and there being a socially conscious population interested in protecting the environment from the harmful effects of pollution. Unfortunately, along with that high use rate comes something else: a high bicycle accident rate.

Progress is slow

According to data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), California consistently has one of the highest bicycle and pedestrian fatality rates in the country. The main cause of these accidents is being struck by a vehicle. The accidents continue in spite of strides in:

  • Bicycle safety - including more sophisticated braking systems and more durable frames that could absorb a portion of the impact from a vehicle
  • Development of safety gear - as more information becomes available about the consequences of traumatic head injuries, helmet manufacturers have taken steps to make their products more effective
  • Urban planning design - many cities in California are undergoing (or have undergone) roadway planning makeovers to ensure safer conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians, including adding more crosswalks, putting in dedicated bike lanes, adding more sidewalks, and ensuring that high-traffic areas are adequately lit
  • Public awareness - because of television, radio, online and print campaigns, today's drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are more aware than ever before about the hazards posed when cars or trucks and pedestrians or cyclists collide

Relevant state laws

California's legislature has taken action as well, passing traffic laws requiring that vehicle drivers acknowledge bicycles as fellow vehicles and afford them the same consideration, respect and deference that would be shown to other cars and trucks on the roadway. In addition, the state mandates that all bicyclists use reflectors and lights when riding at night or in the very early morning, that bicyclists not consume alcohol in excess before riding and that bikers under the age of 18 wear a helmet at all times. (See California Vehicle Code Sections 21200-21212 for more of the state's laws regarding the operation of bicycles.)

Key accident locations

There are some places where bicycle accidents are statistically more likely to occur. Both drivers and bicyclists in those areas should be particularly cautious and focused on safe operation. They include:

  • Driveway and parking lot entrances and exits
  • Alongside dedicated bike lanes (people parking often open their doors in front of bicyclists)
  • Near schools and parks
  • Roads without shoulders or bike paths
  • Unlit crosswalks

No matter how careful you might be, there is still a chance that a distracted, drunk or reckless driver can hit you while you are biking. Even if you have taken all the proper precautions, are biking safely and are wearing appropriate gear, the exposed nature of bicycles means that you are likely to be injured, perhaps seriously. You may even lose your life.

If you or a loved one has been injured while on a bicycle or as a pedestrian, you have legal rights. Speak with an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to learn more about holding the driver who struck you accountable for his or her actions.

Keywords: bicycle accident, bike accident, pedestrian accident, bicycle safety