Good news and bad news for California. The overall number of vehicle-related fatalities dropped by 30% from 2017 to 2018. That’s the good news. The bad news? Bike-related fatalities rose slightly.
A new report issued by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that 2018 was the deadliest year for cyclists since 1990. Fatalities increased by 6.3% from 2017. Pedestrian deaths also increased–3.4% more than last year. Actually, every type of vehicle occupant except cars or light trucks experienced a higher rate of fatalities in 2018. When you combine them all together though, the total number of fatalities decreased by a modest 2.4%.
Why the increase in bicycling, pedestrian, motorcycle and large truck fatalities? The report doesn’t draw conclusions. We do know the total number of vehicle miles increased between 2017 and 2018. The more miles driven, the higher the risk of collisions. The report also shows a higher concentration of fatalities in urban areas–areas where more people tend to be moving and where more people walk or bike to work.
The report shows another alarming trend in demographics. Male cycling deaths rose by 3.2% between 2017 and 2018, while female cycling fatalities rose 29.2%. National trends show only about 28% of bike commuters are women. What gives?
The NHTSA report suggests that programs to increase safety belt use and decrease impaired driving have helped push overall fatality numbers down. Vehicle safety features, including air bags and electronic stability control, have also contributed according to the report’s authors.
To decrease pedestrian, bike and motorcycle fatalities, I’d like to see an aggressive program to curb distracted driving. Improved and increased bike lanes, including protected bike lanes, would go a long way toward keeping our commuters safe. Ditto for lighted crosswalks and other pedestrian safety measures.
Cities around the East Bay continue to make improvements. The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge’s bike and pedestrian path opens November 16. We’re also seeing improved bike lanes around Lake Merritt BART and on Lincoln Avenue in Walnut Creek. We’ve even seen some new pavement and striping on Moraga Way in Moraga. What else have you noticed?
To help reverse the trend for 2019 and 2020, stay alert when driving, walking or biking. That means turn your phone off–if you turn it totally off you won’t be as tempted to check it–and look around before you open your car door, make a right turn or proceed through an intersection.
If the unfortunate happens, get medical attention right away. If it’s serious, contact our office for a free consultation.
Photo by fsiddi, Flickr