Rise in cycling triggers higher traffic fatality rate, new GHSA report says

Cycling fatalities increased sharply between 2010 and 2012, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association. ,Cycling fatalities increased sharply between 2010 and 2012, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

"Between 2010 and 2012, traffic fatalities among cyclists rose 16 percent, compared to a 1 percent increase over the same two-year period for motorists."

Riding your bike to work is a great way to save on auto insurance, as you put fewer miles on your car, which can lead to lower premiums. Cycling also has many physical fitness advantages as well, being one of the best forms of cardiovascular activity to stay strong and healthy.

Tragically, however, there's been an uptick in the number of bicyclist fatalities on the nation's roadways, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Between 2010 and 2012, cyclist deaths rose 16 percent, the GHSA report revealed – a sharp contrast to the percentage increase of motor vehicle-related deaths, which elevated by just 1 percent over the same two-year period.

The report, "Spotlight on Highway Safety: Bicyclist Safety," was put together by Allan Williams, Ph.D., former chief scientist of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. He indicated that one of the most noteworthy findings in the report is the prevalence of adult cyclists who have died while riding compared to the rate 35 years ago. In 2012, adults 20 and up comprised 84 percent of the bike fatalities there were. That compares to slightly more than 1 in 5 in 1975.

This is likely due to the fact that more workers, perhaps in an effort to get more fitness or spend less on gas, are cycling to their place of employment. The GHSA analysis noted that cycling traffic has risen by more than 62 percent since 2000, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Five states account for more than half of cyclists killed

GHSA additionally found that the parts of the country where bicycle deaths are highest tend to be in densely populated states. For instance, with a population of 38 million individuals, the most in the country, California accounted for the largest number of cyclists killed in the study period, in front of Florida, Illinois, New York, Michigan, and Texas. These five states accounted for more than half of bicyclists killed by motorists from 2010 to 2012.

"These are high population states with many urban centers," said Williams in a press release. "[It] likely reflects a high level of bicycle exposure and interaction with motor vehicles."

Drunk driving is typically associated with motorists, but the report revealed that alcohol was often a contributing factor for riders, having too much to drink prior to getting on their bicycles. The report revealed that in 2012, nearly 30 percent of riders over the age of 16 who died had blood alcohol concentration levels above the legal limit. Lack of helmet use was also correlated with cyclists killed after being hit. Roughly 66 percent of riders who died didn't have protection for their head.

The following tips can help ensure that you stay safe when out on the roads:

Be visible. Particularly if you're riding at night, it's key to be visible to your fellow road users. Specialty bike stores sell a variety of outfits that are bright colored, but wear snuggly to improve wind resistance. They should also sell reflectors and portable blinkers that work well.

Communicate with drivers. There are many different hand signals that cyclists use to tell drivers what they intend to do, such as when they will come to a stop, take a right or left. There are various websites you can go to for this information, or you may want to think about taking a class that teaches basic skills for always riding safely.

Obey all traffic laws. The rules of the road aren't solely for motorists; they're for cyclists as well. For example, when at an intersection, cyclists must come to a complete stop on red and should always remember to yield, whether they have a yellow or green light to err on the side of caution.

Cycling is a great way to get some exercise and ease the strain on your vehicle, but be sure you know how to safely navigate the roads to protect yourself, motorists, and fellow bikers.