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Cycling Fatalities Reach 46-Year High, Study Reports

Bicyclists approach an intersection in Chicago.

The number of bicycle accident fatalities nationwide recently set a 46-year record for the number of deaths in a single year, according to a recent report based on bicycle accident data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“Traffic fatality data in the United States is trending in the wrong direction,” Ken McLeod, policy director of The League of American Bicyclists, wrote in an email to the Insurance Journal about the recent bicycle fatality numbers. “Especially for people outside of vehicles, the last decade has seen consistent increases in traffic deaths leading to multi-decade highs.”

Bicycle Accident Fatalities the Highest Since 1975

The Insurance Journal recently published an article based on the NHTSA's annual "Overview of Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes," highlighting bicycle accident fatalities in 2021. According to NHTSA data, there were 966 cyclist deaths in accidents involving motor vehicle collisions that year. This figure represents the highest single-year death toll for cyclists since 1975, as reported by the Insurance Journal. Moreover, it marks the second consecutive year of increasing bicycle fatalities nationwide.

What's even more concerning is that the rise in bicycle accident fatalities is not limited to just 2020 and 2021. In recent years, there has been a consistent increase in such fatalities across the country. Between 2017 and 2021, the United States witnessed an average of 2.7 fatal bicycle accidents for every one million residents. This figure is 5 percent higher than the per capita bicycle fatality rate recorded from 2012 to 2016.

The situation is particularly alarming in urban areas like Chicago, where bicycle accident fatalities have surged by 62 percent since 2012, according to the Insurance Journal and NHTSA bicycle accident data.

How Many Bike Accidents Occur Each Year in Illinois?

According to the latest NHTSA accident data, Illinois has experienced an alarming increase in cyclist fatalities. For instance, in 2021, the total number of cyclists who lost their lives in accidents statewide reached 34, marking a 13.3 percent rise compared to the previous year. In 2020, Illinois recorded 30 bicycle accident fatalities.

Tragically, a majority of these fatalities occurred within the City of Chicago itself. Specifically, in Cook County, which encompasses Chicago, there were 23 bicycle accident deaths in 2021. This number is a stark contrast to the 11 bicycle accident fatalities recorded in Cook County, Illinois, during the preceding year, as reported by NHTSA data.

What is the Leading Cause of Bicycle Deaths?

Bicycle accidents on public roads often stem from the failure of reckless or aggressive drivers to share the road responsibly with cyclists. Numerous factors contribute to these accidents, with specific causes that include:

  • Speeding: Drivers who exceed the speed limit often find themselves unable to slow down and avoid colliding with cyclists in their path.
  • Aggressive drivers: Some motorists display aggressive behavior, failing to provide cyclists with sufficient space when sharing the road. This lack of consideration puts cyclists at risk.
  • Distracted drivers: The prevalence of distracted driving, particularly among those who engage in texting and driving, poses a significant danger. Distracted drivers are often unaware of their surroundings, including the presence of cyclists.
  • Impaired drivers: Alcohol or drug use can greatly impair a driver's judgment and reaction time, making them more likely to be involved in a collision with a cyclist.

In addition to these factors, there are other common causes of bicycle accidents that are closely tied to driver behavior. Unsafe lane changes, where drivers fail to check for cyclists before switching lanes, contribute to numerous collisions. Similarly, drivers who fail to yield or give enough space to cyclists when making turns put vulnerable cyclists at risk.

Dealing With the Aftermath of a Bicycle Accident

Claims involving bicycle accidents are often complex. Insurance companies are known to employ tactics to limit or deny bicycle accident claims in order to minimize their financial liability. They may argue that the cyclist was partially or fully at fault for the accident, attempt to downplay the extent of the cyclist's injuries, question the legitimacy of medical treatment, or argue that the accident did not cause the claimed injuries.

They may also employ intentional delays, requests for excessive documentation, or make lowball settlement offers to discourage injured cyclists from pursuing full compensation for their losses. That's why It is important for cyclists to seek experienced legal representation from a bicycle accident lawyer to help navigate these challenges effectively.

At Keating Law Offices, P.C., our bicycle accident attorneys are dedicated to fighting for the rights of injured cyclists. Led by Attorney Michael Keating, who currently serves as the chair of the Bicycle Litigation Group for the American Association for Justice, we are committed to prioritizing your best interests and fighting for the financial compensation you deserve.

When you choose our law firm, you can trust that your needs will always come first. We understand the challenges you're facing and are here to provide the support and guidance you need. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. With two convenient Chicago locations, we are readily available to meet with you and address any questions you may have regarding your potential injury claim or lawsuit.

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