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Bicycle deaths rising

Bike riding has grown in popularity in Las Vegas and across the nation because of the benefits for physical fitness, the environment and gas savings. This has a fatal downside, however, as car accidents have proven fatal to bicyclists. After reaching a record low in 2010, bicyclists deaths rose by 12.2 percent from one year earlier. By comparison, total traffic deaths rose by 7.2 percent in that year.

The 818 fatalities in 2015 is the largest increase since 1995, according to a recent report from the Governor's Highway Safety Association. Cyclists constituted at least two percent of all traffic deaths in this country. Adults accounted for 88 percent of deaths in vehicle-bicyclist accidents. At least 70 percent of these accidents took place in urban areas, and 72 percent occurred in locations where there was no intersection.

Most accident are blamed on a driver failing to notice the bicyclist. Bicyclists, however, are more likely to see the vehicle and anticipate that the driver will yield. When a driver does not give way, the bicyclist cannot stop in time to avoid a collision.

Bicyclists accounted for 2.2 percent of the 3,477 roadway users who were killed in an accident involving a distracted driver. This number is likely understated because a third of all motorists admitted that they were distracted for at least one minute in about one in ten trips. Twelve percent of the drivers in fatal accidents involving a bicyclist in 2015 had a blood alcohol content level above the legal limit for drunk driving.

The rise in fatalities, according to the GHSA, may be attributed to the lack of protection afforded to bicyclists. The difference in size between a bike and a vehicle results in a bicyclist suffering a serious injury, while the vehicle occupants are relatively uninjured.

Mild winters change bicycling patterns and increase the risk of vehicle collisions. An improving economy is another element, because traffic deaths tend to rise as unemployment and gas prices drop. States with greater populations and warmer weather, such as Florida, California and Texas saw 40 percent of all bicyclists deaths in this country. Seven other states reported 23 to 50 cyclist fatalities.

A bicyclist injured by a negligent or drunk driver may be entitled to compensation for their medical expenses and other losses. An attorney can help fight for these rights.

Source: Governor's Highway Safety Association, "A Right to the Road. Understanding & Addressing Bicyclist Safety," Accessed Aug. 27, 2017

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