Florida Bicycle Accidents Demonstrate Need for Increased Awareness

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 51,000 bicyclists were injured and another 639 were killed on our nation’s roadways in 2009. Still, research proves that many bicycle accidents go unreported to authorities and that a significant percentage of these injuries and human losses included children under the age of 14. Cycling and cyclists present a unique public safety issue for drivers and law enforcement. This fact is most significant in Florida.

In 2010, Florida was ranked the most dangerous state for bicyclists. While the state only boasts about 6 percent of the nation’s population, more than 17 percent of bicyclist deaths occur in the state. For almost a decade, the Sunshine State has ranked in the top of bicycle accident statistics. Four of the nation’s five most dangerous cities for cyclists are in Florida, and a number of serious accidents and deaths have already been reported in 2011.

In the Sunshine State, the legislature has considered many of the issues involving bicyclists and their bikes, which are considered vehicles under Florida law. Prohibitions on headset wearing complement statutory mandates for lights and helmets for those under 16. Laws cover safe operation of cycles on and off the road. Still, the reality is that bicycles share the roads with cars and other motor vehicles. Improving cyclist safety requires improving awareness among drivers and bicyclists alike.

Experts attributed some of the attractive aspects of Florida as the culprit in its high cyclist injury and death rates. The population of Florida, development, pleasant climate and large number of tourists are all significant risk factors for bicycle and motor vehicle accidents.

Two bicycle-related fatalities occur each day. According to the National Safety Council, cyclist-related injuries and deaths cost the public about $4 billion per year. Cyclists and their passengers can suffer tragic injuries and even death in the event of a collision with a car or truck. Cyclists risk more than just bumps and bruises if hit by motor vehicles. Any accident can result in a cyclist or passenger being run over, breaking bones or suffering concussions, brain injury or even death. In these situations, an injured child or adult can suffer lasting psychological damage and/or experience high medical costs, permanent disability and lost wages.

In reducing the number of injuries and fatalities, decisive safety initiatives must take place. Reduction of speed in urban or populated areas, reduction in distracted driving, bicyclist education, driver awareness and law enforcement could all be keys to solving the problem.