The numbers don’t lie: according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 3,300 cyclists were killed in crashes between 2008 and 2012 and the cyclist being struck by the front of a vehicle caused a whopping 74% of those deaths. As for non-deadly accidents, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration research found that 29% of accidents that result in injury to a cyclist were caused by cars – by far the highest percentage in that study.
The Takeaway: The statistics are clear – cyclists are much more likely to be injured or killed by a car than by anything else on the road. If there's one thing you should be careful of while riding, it's cars.
But the data goes further: of all fatalities in the IIHS study, an astounding 45% were caused when a vehicle was traveling the same direction as the cyclist. That means that the most common way cyclists are killed on the street is by a car approaching from behind. Other data from the League of American Bicyclists supports this claim as 40% of serious cyclist collisions are caused by a car rear-ending the cyclist.
The Takeaway: You're more likely to get hurt riding your bike because you get rear-ended by a car than any other way. Be just as wary, if not more, of the cars behind you as you are of the cars opposing you and invest in a great rear light.
The second most likely fatal or serious collision for a cyclist is when a car runs into a cyclist crossing its path. Once again, this is described as the car running into the cyclist. Specifically, 40% of these cases are caused by a car running into a cyclist’s rear end, while 11% are caused by a car running into a cyclist crossing its path perpendicularly. This “t-bone” scenario is caused by the same problem as the rear-end scenario above: the driver failed to see the cyclist.
The Takeaway: The second most likely way you could get hurt on the road is when you're crossing in front of a car. Use your hand signals and always ride under the assumption that the car can't see you.
What’s the obvious solution to the two most common kinds of serious cycling accidents caused by cars? Cyclists have to be more visible and more noticeable. Last week, we pointed out that the best way to be seen on the road is with reflectors and lights. Using a powerful rear light will make you more visible to cars approaching from behind – remember that the rear-end scenario is the most common cause of serious cycling injuries, so a rear light should be essential! Reflectors on moving parts of your bike, like the wheels, or pedals can help you be seen from the side and help prevent the second most common “t-bone” style collision.
The Takeaway: Using lights and reflectors can help you avoid those two most common causes of serious car on bike collisions. In fact, they can make you safer by 51% according to the numbers!
You might already be required to be lit up on your bike. Remember that your safety and those laws don’t take a break for the unfortunate situations where you get caught without a light – like when your light gets stolen, or you run out of batteries, so make sure you have a great, reliable light for both the front and the rear of your bike.
The Takeaway: Savvy riders know that great lights not only brighten up the road, they also improve safety by ensuring that others can see you, including those drivers who are behind you.