The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2008 Traffic Safety Facts: Bicyclists and Other Cyclists is now available on the NHTSA website.
While it’s always a little sobering to look at accident and fatality statistics, the good news is that the numbers are relatively low and fatalities have dropped over the past 10 years:
The number of pedalcyclist fatalities in 2008 is 6 percent lower than the 760
fatalities reported in 1998. The highest number of pedalcyclist fatalities ever recorded in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) was 1,003 in 1975. Pedalcyclists accounted for 14 percent of all nonoccupant traffic fatalities in 2008.
Deleware and Florida were the two most dangerous states for bicyclists with 6.97 and 6.82 fatalities per million population. Nebraska, South Dakota, and Vermont all had zero fatalities in 2008.
A surprising statistic is the number of bicyclists who were under the influence of alcohol when they were killed:
Over one-fourth (28%) of the pedalcyclists killed had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .01 g/dL or higher, and nearly one-fourth (23%) had a BAC of .08 g/dL or higher.
The NHTSA offers some safety tips at the end of the fact sheet that are worth noting (let’s not turn this into a helmet war, please):
Important Safety Reminders
All bicyclists should wear properly fitted bicycle helmets every time they ride. A helmet is the single most effective way to prevent head injury resulting from a bicycle crash.
Bicyclists are considered vehicle operators; they are required to obey the same rules of the road as other vehicle operators, including obeying traffic signs, signals, and lane markings. When cycling in the street, cyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic.
Drivers of motor vehicles need to share the road with bicyclists. Be courteous — allow at least three feet clearance when passing a bicyclist on the road, look for cyclists before opening a car door or pulling out from a parking space, and yield to cyclists at intersections and as directed by signs and signals. Be especially watchful for cyclists when making turns, either left or right.
Bicyclists should increase their visibility to drivers by wearing fluorescent or brightly colored clothing during the day, dawn, and dusk. To be noticed when riding at night, use a front light and a red reflector or flashing rear light, and use retro-reflective tape or markings on equipment or clothing.
View the Fact Sheet [PDF] →