In urban environments like Tampa Bay, commuting by bicycle is becoming more common. In fact, there was a 21% increase in cyclists traveling to work from 2000-2012. But how safe is riding a bicycle in rush-hour congestion or even on a Sunday afternoon?
According to the most recent data from the National Highway Safety Administration, 45,000 cyclists were injured and 818 were killed in accidents in 2015. Despite only accounting for 1% of total travel, cycling accounts for 1.8% of all motor-vehicle accidents, with the number of injuries and deaths continuing to rise. In fact, 33% of all crashes between a motor vehicle and a bicycle result in serious injury or death.
Most bicycle and motor vehicle collisions occur because of poor decisions or failure to obey traffic rules and regulations, such as failing to yield or indicate a turn. These actions result in a bicyclist slamming into a 3,500-pound moving vehicle or the hard pavement and impacts can be serious. Research from The International Research Council on Biomechanics of Injury (IRCBI) indicates that severe injuries happen in about 20% of car-bike crashes, including:
1. Head injuries
2. Neck injuries
3. Brain injuries
4. Hand and wrist fractures
5. Leg injuries – broken bones, compound fractures, torn ligaments
6. Facial lacerations
7. Broken collar bones
8. Abdominal injuries and broken ribs
The severity of the injury depends on multiple factors: the speed at which each person was travelling, the direction each person was travelling, the accident location, etc. It is important to keep in mind that injuries – including serious injuries – can occur with any crash, even those at low-speeds. In addition, bicycle-motor vehicle crashes can give rise to long-term side effects like:
Loss of range of motion or motor function
Cognitive disabilities or delays
Long term medical treatment
Permanent or long-term disability
The best way to avoid these serious crashes is to drive and ride responsibly. Wear a helmet, obey the rules of the road, maintain safe bike equipment, remain visible, and stay alert to others. Remember, serious injuries can happen to anyone at any time and any injury can be serious or even deadly.