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The police do not report all vehicle-bicycle accidents

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, there were 818 bicyclist fatalities in our country in 2015. The NHTSA also estimated that there were 45,000 bicyclist injuries that year.

These figures may be too low because law enforcement does not report all bicycle accidents.

Deaths and injuries

The 2015 fatality total represented an increase of 12.2 percent from 2014. On the other hand, the number of injuries in 2015 dropped by 5,000 over 2014. Still, when researchers looked into hospital records, they found that law enforcement officers only recorded a small number of bicycle accidents that resulted in injury—perhaps only 10 percent.

Certain facts missing

Researchers would like to have more data regarding how much traffic exposure cyclists have. However, they would need to know certain factors, such as how many miles a cyclist rides annually, how long that takes, where they ride and how much experience a rider has.

Vulnerability of cyclists

The risk of exposure in traffic is greater at night, and safety experts encourage cyclists to wear helmets and bright clothing in order to be more visible. In the 2012 National Survey on Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behaviors, the most frequent cause of injury to cyclists is being struck by a vehicle, and the NHTSA put together a breakdown about bicycle crash victims in 2014:

  • 71 percent of fatalities occurred in urban areas
  • 20 percent of the fatalities happened between 6:00 and 8:59 p.m.
  • In 35 percent of vehicle-bicycle crashes, either the cyclist or the driver had blood alcohol content levels of 0.08 percent or higher

In 1988, the average age of cyclists who died in vehicle-bicycle crashes was 24. In 2004, the average age was 39 and in 2014, it was 45.

Records kept

Even when a cyclist is wearing a helmet and other safety protection, he or she still faces exposure to catastrophic injuries, including broken bones, brain injuries and severe skin lacerations. Fortunately, a hospital will still have medical records that will be important for the victim and the subsequent insurance claim, even if the police do not record the collision. 

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