California is the most dangerous state in the country for bicyclists. More bicyclists died in California than in any other state in 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). With 147 pedal cyclist fatalities, California outstripped the second-highest state (Florida) by nine deaths. This is, unfortunately, a trend that continues year after year in the Golden State.
As a bicyclist in California, take your safety into your own hands. Do not depend on drivers to follow the rules, watch the road, or prevent collisions. Instead, learn why bicycle collisions happen and how to prevent them. Being proactive about bicyclist safety could save your life. Here are the facts, statistics, and tips you should know before getting on your bike in San Francisco.
The Facts on California Fatal Bicycle Crashes
The NHTSA reports that the majority (71%) of fatal bike crashes occur in urban areas. Daytime fatal accidents are more common than nighttime ones (51% vs. 45%). In 2016, the average age of bicyclists killed in motor vehicle accidents was 46. Most deceased bicyclists were male (84%). Children under the age of 15 accounted for 7% of bicyclist deaths in 2016. In California, bicyclists made up 4.1% of all state traffic fatalities in 2016.
The city of San Francisco saw one pedal cyclist fatality in 2016. In Los Angeles, 20 pedal cyclists died – the most out of any other city in the U.S. In a report previously reported by the California Office of Traffic Safety, bicyclist injuries and deaths combined amounted to 603 victims in the city of San Francisco in 2015. Eight of these victims were under the age of 15. Historically, the summer months (July through September) are the most dangerous for California bicyclists. Warm, sunny weather can lead to a greater number of bicyclists on California’s streets in the summer.
How to Stay Safe as a California Bicyclist
Bicycle-vehicle collisions are dangerous for bicyclists due to vulnerability to personal injuries. Most bikers only have a helmet standing between them and the asphalt in a collision. They are prone to serious, life-threatening injuries such as fractured spinal cords, traumatic brain injuries, and internal bleeding. Injuries to the head, neck, spine, and chest are common, as are lacerations and road rash.
The best way to protect yourself is to avoid a collision, to begin with. Follow these safety tips to decrease your odds of a collision in California:
- Obey the law. Although many bicycle accidents happen because drivers break the rules, some are because of law-breaching bikers. Follow the rules when biking around San Francisco, obeying traffic signals and yielding the right of way at intersections. Obeying the law can prevent an accident and help you avoid liability for a collision.
- Stay visible. Wear brightly colored clothing or a neon vest when riding your bike in California. Make sure your bicycle has all the required equipment, including visible white and red lights/reflectors on the front and back of your bike. Ride in the same direction as traffic and signal your intent to turn. Being predictable can lower your risk of an accident.
- Wear a helmet. All bicyclists and their passengers under the age of 18 must wear federally approved helmets while riding. If you’re over the age of 18, you should still wear a helmet even if not required by law. A helmet can dramatically decrease your odds of a fatal head injury in an accident.
You can help prevent a bicycle accident by doing your part as a bicyclist in California. If you do get into a collision, protect your rights with help from a San Francisco bicycle accident attorney. A lawyer can review your rights and help you get the most for your insurance claim. All drivers in California must carry auto insurance to pay for victims’ damages after a collision. A lawyer can negotiate a better settlement with insurance companies on your behalf.