Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Beyond the Numbers: IL One of the States With the Most Deaths While Bicycling. But why?

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a non-profit group made up of representatives from each state to collectively work for national security goals. The GHSA has its roots in the Federal State and Community Highway Safety Grant Program. This program, commonly known as "Section 402" because of the section of the United States Code it is listed under, provide the federal guidelines required for states that receive Federal funding for their highways.

Typically the efforts of the GHSA delve into issues only involving motorists such as speed limits, teenage driving, drunken driving, and enforcement of motor vehicle laws. However, the GHSA also addresses issues involving pedestrian and bicyclist safety. The GHSA has issued a new report, the "Spotlight on Highway Safety - Bicyclist Safety" which can be found in its entirety by clicking the link.

Many news outlets in Illinois have discussed the fact that Illinois had the 5th highest number of bicycle fatalities in the United States. This is an alarming statistic on its face when you consider that Illinois is cold for several months out of the year and states on the West Coast, the Southwest, Gulf Coast and the Southern states all have climates that are conducive to cycling year round.

However, as Jim Merrill of the Active Transportation Alliance noted to the Chicago Sun-Times, this statistic does not necessarily mean that Illinois is the "fifth worst" state for bicycling. Jim stated the following about how to best interpret these statistics:
“The urge to say Illinois is the fifth worst state in terms of fatal bike crashes should be taken with a grain of salt. When you break those numbers down by the number of people biking [as a whole], we’re more in the middle of the pack.”
In the Sun-Times article, the statistical basis for Jim Merrell's position was broken down. In Chicago an average of 125,000 people ride a bike every single day. This sheer volume of bicyclists leads to the very unfortunate statistical probability that there could be more deaths by bicycle. Since 2000, the number of daily bicyclists in Chicago has tripled. 

Attorney Mike Keating of the Illinois-based law firm Keating Law Offices, P.C. that focuses its practices on representing bicyclists, stated in addition to the volume of riders, the density of the populations tend to correlate with the number of deaths of bicylists. The study noted that in 1975 only half (50%) of all bicycle fatalities were in urban areas, by 2012 more than two-thirds (69%) of bicyclist fatalities occurred in urban areas.

Attorney Keating stated as follows,"
"The top five states for bicyclist fatalities were California, Florida, Texas, New York, and Illinois. Outside of the fact each of those states have a strong bicycling culture, the other commonality between these states is that they boast large urban areas and college campuses where bicycling is a key factor in commuting. The density of an urban area - and the congestion that comes with it - creates traffic patterns and leads to motorist behavior that would suggest potentially dangerous conditions for many bicyclists."
Since 2010, California has experienced 338 bicycling fatalities, followed by 329 in Florida, 143 in Texas, 138 in New York, and 80 in Illinois. The tops six states accounted for 54% of ALL fatal bicycle accidents nationwide. In addition, the study found that there has been a 16% increase in the number of bicyclists killed in crashes with motor vehicles between 2010 and 2012. In fact, the total number nationwide went from 621 to over a hundred more in 2012 with 722 fatal bicycle crashes.

Other statistics that the study noted were:
  • Age Matters: In 1975 21% bicyclist fatalities were of riders age 20 and over. The remainder were teenagers of children. By 2012 this number had climbed to 84% of bicyclist fatalities by riders that were age 20 or older. 
  • Drunk Riding: A staggering 1 in 4 (25%) of all adult bicyclists killed in a crash in 2012 were impaired by alcohol.
  • Helmets Save Lives: More than two thirds of all bicyclists killed in a bicycle accident in 2012 were not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. The study concluded that the lack of a national helmet standard is an impediment towards reducing the number of bicycle fatalities. 

Keating Law Offices is one of the nation's leading law firm in the emerging legal field of bicycle litigation. The firm has successfully represented hundreds of clients who were injured while riding or whose family member was killed while riding. Attorney Michael S. Keating is the Chair of the Bicycle Litigation Group for the American Association for Justice, the national trial lawyers association.

If you have any questions regarding this post or an issue involving Illinois personal injury law, contact Illinois Bicycle Attorney Mike Keating at 312-208-7702 or Mike@KeatingLegal.com 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All e-mails and phone calls are returned promptly. All initial consultations are confidential and free.