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Orange County, California

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John Bisnar
John Bisnar
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Hit-and-run bicycle vs auto fatality

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Here is another story of a hit-and-run driver killing someone.

This time the fatal bicycle accident was in Solana Beach, San Diego County, California, as reported by the North County Times.

SOLANA BEACH —- A woman on a bicycle was fatally struck by a motorist who then fled the scene on Highway 101 Friday, authorities said. The driver was later found and taken into custody in Escondido, a sheriff’s lieutenant said. The collision happened just before noon on North Coast Highway 101 and Solana Vista Drive, sheriff’s Lt. Phil Brust said. Further details were not available.

Based upon the number of bicycle accident cases we and our colleagues have been handling it seems to me that the number of serious injury bicycle accidents must be going up substantially, especially here in Orange County, California. To check the statistics, I revisited the U. S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts 2002 and 2004.

Using 1994 as a base year and 2004 as the latest year of national statistics I found:

1. The number of fatal pedalists (all forms of pedal powered travel) accidents dropped from 802 to 725. What was interesting was that all recorded forms of non-occupant traffic fatalities dropped as well, from 6,398 to 5,494, which includes pedestrians which dropped form 5,489 to 4,641. These static’s are amazing to me. Even with our increased population and increased traffic the number of non-occupant traffic fatalities is steadily declining over the ten years of the study.

2. Only 2% of traffic fatalities and 1% of the injured were pedalists;

3. Only 13% of non-motorist traffic fatalities were pedalists compared to 84% for pedestrians. The remaining approximately 2% of the fatalities were attributed to “other” which includes skateboarders and roller skaters;

4. The average age of pedalist fatalities has risen from 27.5 in 1992 to 28.9 years in 1994 to 35.7 years in 2002 to 38.7 in 1994.

5. The percentage of pedalist fatalities in the age group of 25 to 64 has increased from 41% to 56%, a 40% increase; and

6. Alcohol was involved in more than a third of the pdealist fatality cases.

So the facts are, at least up to 2004 nationally, that the number of bicycle accident cases, at least the fatalities, are going down. However, the age range for the fatalities is going up.

OK, so maybe bicycle fatalities are increasing in California rather than nationwide. I checked the California statistics and they show that indeed, California has the highest number of pedalist fatalities, however on a statistical basis, pedalists per million population, California is fifth. I found no statistics to correlate the number of bicycle miles ridden in California verses the nation to compare with.

Overall, the conclusion I come to is that we are actually safer on riding bicycles now then we have ever been. It certainly is healthier for us than riding in our automobiles. At another time I will try to compare the safety statistics between miles on a bike verses miles in a car.

Please always wear a helmet when riding. Looks like a great day for a bike ride along the beach.