Better data, law enforcement training, and promotion of roadway improvements among recommendations
New Report Detailing Bicyclist Fatalities Prompts 30 Life-Saving Action Steps for States
New research shows that bicyclist deaths rose 12.2% to 818 in 2015, the largest percentage increase of all roadway user groups that year (the latest year in which data is available). But unlike decades ago, when children and teens represented the bulk of bicyclist fatalities, today the average age of those killed is 45, and most are male (85%).
These findings are among many detailed in A Right to the Road: Understanding & Addressing Bicyclist Safety, a new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). Funded by a grant from State Farm®, the publication analyzes national data to understand fatal bicyclist-motor vehicle crash characteristics and offers 30 action steps to help State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs) and local communities assess their current bicyclist safety programs and take action to improve bicyclist safety.
“We need to ensure that bicyclists and motorists can share roads safely,” said Chris Mullen, Director – Technology Research at State Farm. “Unfortunately, bicyclists are vulnerable and much more susceptible to serious injury or death when on the roads with vehicles. That’s why it is so critical that we examine the factors surrounding these crashes and leverage a variety of proven tools to improve bicyclist safety nationwide.”
A unifying theme in many of these crashes is that the motorist often fails to see the bicyclist, while the bicyclist expects the driver to give way and is unable to stop in time to avoid a crash. This illustrates the need for all people to pay attention to their surroundings whenever they take to the road.
Other important data presented in the report includes where and when fatal bicyclist-motor vehicle crashes are occurring (72% in non-intersection locations, and 53% between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., respectively). Alcohol was a factor in 37% of the 2015 bicyclist fatalities for either the cyclist or the driver. The report acknowledges limitations on the currently available data and calls for states and localities to refine crash reports to improve the accuracy of the data collected.
Better crash data is just one of the 30 recommendations. Other key suggestions include: more training for law enforcement to understand state and local laws designed to protect bicyclists; partnering with bicycling and community organizations to amplify driver and cyclist safety messaging; and pairing infrastructure improvements with public education.
“State highway safety agencies are tasked with addressing road user behavior through public awareness, so they are uniquely positioned to educate people about the safety benefits of engineering improvements and build support for better roadway design,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “While engineering solutions are vital, states and communities cannot solely build their way out of the problem. These changes should be accompanied by education and enforcement to be most effective.”
The report also outlines federal safety efforts, possible funding sources, partner organizations, and a wide range of promising state and local programs and policies that communities can use to encourage safer behavior by all road users, whether traveling by bicycle, motor vehicle or on foot.
This comprehensive report was authored by traffic safety expert Pam Fischer, who has previously researched safety topics for GHSA including teen driving, drowsy driving and pedestrian safety. The data analysis was done by Richard Retting of Sam Schwartz Transportation Consultants. An expert panel of state and federal officials, researchers and bicycle safety advocates served as advisors for the report. Access it and additional resources here: http://www.ghsa.org/resources/bicyclist-safety2017.
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The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visit www.ghsa.org. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GHSAhq or follow us on Twitter @GHSAHQ.
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