The number of bicycle fatalities per 1 million people is higher in North Carolina than it is overall in the nation.
According to the latest report on bicycle crashes released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, our crash rate per 1 million was 2.59, compared to the total U.S. rate of 2.17.
Our Asheville car accident attorneys know that the majority of fatal bicycle crashes involve motor vehicles. When a car or truck strikes a bicyclist, a bicyclist's risk of injury is great because aside from a helmet, there is nothing else to cushion the body from the pavement. Depending on how fast the motor vehicle is traveling and the angle at which the bicyclist is hit, he or she faces high risk of a serious injury or death.
The NHTSA's annual report, which this year details 2011 statistics, revealed that across the U.S., there were nearly 680 bicyclists killed and 48,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes.
Deaths of people operating bicycles accounted for 2 percent of all those killed and 2 percent of all those injured throughout the year.
What's especially concerning, though, is that the number of cyclists killed was nearly 10 percent higher in 2011 than it was for 2010. While there were 623 killed in 2010, there were 677 killed in 2011. In fact, the percentage of bicyclist fatalities was higher in 2011 than it's been in the last decade.
Although we don't have figures for 2012, we do know that throughout the country, more people are choosing to ride bicycles as a means of regular transportation because it's greener, healthier and often more enjoyable than a motor vehicle commute.
But more bicyclists mean more crashes.
A 2009 report - the most recent - by the North Carolina Department of Transportation revealed that more than half (55 percent) of all bicycle crashes in North Carolina that year occurred in counties within the Piedmont region, which includes the cities of Charlotte and Raleigh. The Coastal Plain counties accounted for 38 percent of all bicycle crashes, while the Mountain region, where Asheville is located, accounted for just 7.5 percent.
However, that's not an indication that Asheville is any safer than elsewhere in the state. Simply, the Mountain region of North Carolina simply has fewer people, even though those in Asheville may tend to ride bicycles more than those in other areas.
The largest portion of bicyclist fatalities in the country happened between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., according to the NHTSA. That accounted for about 30 percent of all fatalities. The second-highest number, 21 percent, occurred between 8 p.m. and midnight.
Thirty-one percent of those incidents were in rural areas, while 69 percent were in urban settings.
Another noteworthy trend that continued through 2011 was the rising age of bicycle crash casualties. In the last 10 years, the average age of bicyclists injured rose from 28 to 32. The average of bicyclists killed rose from 36 to 43.
We may continue to see this figure rise with the continued aging of the baby boomer population.