Bicycle, Motorcycle and Large Trucks Fatalities Rise

According to federal reports, deaths of motorcyclists, bicyclists, and large truck occupants rose sharply in 2011, even as total traffic deaths dropped. Motorcycle fatalities and injuries alone cost an estimated $16 billion per year. Accident and injury attorneys are concerned over this growing national trend.

In recent years, our culture has shifted its view of transportation in favor of healthier, more sustainable modes of transport. Bicycles are becoming increasingly popular in the United States, with annual sales of more than $6 billion. The Bicycle Market Research Institute found that of the 39.6 million Americans (aged seven and older) regularly riding in 2011, 73% rode for recreation, 53% for fitness, 10% to commute, 8% to race, and 6% for sport. Deaths from bicycle accidents, however, increased 8.7% from last year, which is in no small part due to the steady increase of bicyclists throughout the country. In Washington D.C., for example, there has been a 175% increase since 2004 in cyclists during morning and evening rush hours.

The Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) is working in conjunction with the Federal Motor Carrier Administration to gain more information on this increase. Some officials suspect there is a connection between recent state’s increase in speed limits and the increase of bicycle deaths. The statistics on bike accident injuries, however, are difficult to determine, as less than 10% of crashes causing only injury are ever reported to the police. Children are at a particularly high risk for accidents, with 13% of bike fatalities occurring in children under 14. It is estimated that helmet use would prevent anywhere between 39,000 and 45,000 head injuries per year.

Although 2011 reported the lowest fatality rate ever recorded, deaths of large truck occupants increased an astounding 20%, and motorcycle deaths increased by more than 2%. Large trucks are not typically engineered or tested for crash safety as automobiles are, and they are harder to stop in emergencies, which results in a 50 to 60% crash fatality rate. Surprisingly, the trucking industry is currently lobbying for larger and heavier truck maximums.

The current weight limit is set at 80,000 pounds, and the industry is seeking an increase to 97,000 pounds. Congress passed a bill in 2012 directing the NHSTA to conduct a study on how well trucks protect occupants in crashes. The results of this study will undoubtedly affect these lobbying efforts. Safety advocates are asserting that larger and heavier trucks could cause more damage to national high way infrastructure and pose a greater risk to public safety. It is unlikely that truck manufacturers will improve their engineering and testing processes if they were allowed to carry heavier loads.

More people are riding motorcycles in the U.S. today than ever before, contributing to the fact that motorcycle deaths have risen steadily for the past 13 years. In 2010 alone, direct costs from motorcycle deaths and injuries reached $16 billion, which is likely a low estimate because of the inability to determine long-term medical expenses and other factors. According to federal reports, 82,000 motorcyclists were injured and over 4,500 were killed in crashes in 2010. The average cost for a fatal crash was about $1.2 million, while the cost for a crash with only injuries ranged from $2,500 to $1.4 million.

Helmets are the only proven method for reducing motorcycle and bicycle deaths and injuries, and the most effective way to get citizens to wear helmets is by passing and enforcing universal helmet laws. Each state decides its own legislation, and to date, 3 states (Illinois, New Hampshire, and Iowa) had no such motorcycle helmet law. Alarmingly, 29 states do not have a bicycle helmet law.

Bicycle, motorcycle, and truck accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have decades of experience negotiating with insurances companies and other responsible parties. If you were injured in a bicycle, truck, or motorcycle accident, you have important legal rights and should seek the guidance of experienced accident and injury lawyers.