Cycling Accidents: 10 Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents and How To Prevent Them

Cycling Accidents

Cycling provides countless health benefits but can also put you at risk of injuries and fatalities.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA, 932 fatal bicycle accidents were recorded in 2020, an 8.9% increase from 856 in 2019. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also stated that over 130,000 individuals suffer from injuries from cycling accidents in the United States every year.

As a cyclist, it’s crucial to understand the common causes of bike accidents.

With the info provided here, you can avoid being involved in collisions, protect pedestrians, and most importantly, ensure your own bicycle safety.

In this article, we’ll get into the causes of bike accidents, and ways you can help prevent them. We hope the information presented here will help improve your safety as a cyclist.

10 Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents

The goal of this article is to keep you safe while out on the road. It can be wild out there so watch out, and take care!

Distracted Cycling

Distracted driving is the leading cause of all types of vehicle collisions, including cycling accidents.

But this is also a problem with cyclists. When bicyclists pay more attention to their smartphones instead of the road, they’re much more likely to be involved in crashes.

Some of the most common distractions that lead to accidents, including bicyclist deaths are reading and replying to text messages, talking on the phone, calling someone on the phone, and checking social media.

Following Too Closely

Following Too Closely

Cyclists who follow cars or other bikes too closely and pass within less than three feet create dangerous situations on the road, including traffic crashes!

Following too close greatly increases the chances motorists will crash into you, or that you will crash into them if something unexpected happens!

Cyclists should always keep a safe distance between themselves and other vehicles on the road.

At a minimum, cyclists should maintain at least three feet of space between them and any other vehicle when passing or being passed.

This will help to ensure that everyone is able to travel safely on the road. 

Make it a habit to leave plenty of space between you and the vehicles on the road so you can give yourself and them plenty of time to react to surprises and avoid accidents.

Ignoring Traffic Lights and Stop Signs

Car, trucks, and pedestrians count on you to respect the rules of the road! As a responsible cyclist, you owe it to those around you to obey traffic signs and signals.

You should also be aware of your surroundings and the potential hazards that may exist.

Stay alert and watch for pedestrians, cars, and other cyclists.

Ride defensively, use hand signals to indicate when you are turning or stopping, and always wear a helmet.

Consider the impact of your cycling on others. Be courteous to those around you by slowing down when riding near pedestrians, avoiding busy roads during peak hours, and using bike lanes where available.

By being mindful of others on the road, you can help keep everyone safe!

Road safety rules aren’t just for drivers. If you expect cars and trucks to follow the rules, you should also pay them the same respect and courtesy.

Weaving Through Traffic

Bicycles that weave through traffic are much less likely to see vehicles and other cyclists on the road.

And many accidents are the direct result of erratic driving or bike riding.\

To stay safe, cyclists should always ride in a predictable manner and obey traffic laws.

They should also use lights and reflectors at night and wear bright clothing during the day.

Cyclists should make sure to signal their intentions when turning or changing lanes.

It’s best to be a defensive cyclist. That way you make sure cars and trucks aren’t surprised by erratic behavior that often leads to bike accidents.

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Unsafe Lane Changes

Ride In Bike Lanes When You Can

When riding your bike, you’re at risk of severe injuries when you make unsafe lane changes. Be sure to constantly scan your surroundings looking for potential dangers.

Ride in bike lanes when you can to help protect yourself.

Bike lanes provide a designated space for cyclists on the road, making it easier to navigate traffic and reducing the chance of getting into an accident.

Just be sure to look out for cars that may be turning into or out of the bike lane, as well as pedestrians who may be crossing.

Bike accidents, including fatal injuries, resulting from unsafe (usually sudden) lane changes happen when the driver merges into the bike rows without looking to check if the way is clear.

Turning or Merging without Looking

Drivers and cyclists alike should check for cyclists and pedestrians before making a turn at intersections, or changing lanes. Some people fail to do this, which sometimes results in traffic-related bicycle injuries and deaths.

Cyclists should always stay alert and obey traffic laws when riding in traffic.

They should use hand signals to indicate turns and stops, and they should always be on the lookout for drivers who may not be paying attention or who might not see them.

Cyclists should also take extra caution when passing through intersections, watching out for vehicles that may be turning across their path.

Try to be alert to all kinds of traffic around you and always check your Blind Spots!

Not Being Visible Enough

Not Being Visible Enough

Keep in mind that vehicle drivers are sometimes in their own little worlds when behind the wheel…

With cellphones, music, passengers, and who knows what else going on in their vehicles, bike safety is probably not on their minds at all!.

For this reason, cyclists need to make sure they are as visible as possible to everyone else on the road.

This includes:

  • Blinking rear red lights
  • Blinking headlights
  • Reflective clothing
  • Proper hand signals to indicate lane changes and turns

Failure to Yield

Cyclists should yield to vehicle traffic as needed to maintain their own safety!

Never mind about any “right of way” considerations where your safety is concerned, because at the end of the day, getting to your destination safely is the only thing that matters.

Failure to yield is another form of reckless or careless cycling that often leads to bike accidents. 

Failure to yield is when a cyclist does not give the right of way to other vehicles or pedestrians, such as when they enter an intersection without stopping or slowing down.

This can result in serious accidents, especially if a car or truck is approaching from another direction.

It’s essential for cyclists to obey traffic laws and always be aware of their surroundings when riding.

Drunk or Drug-Impaired Driving

Let’s face it, drunk and high drivers get behind the wheel way too often! Drunk or high drivers aren’t only putting themselves in great danger but also putting every other person on the road at risk of accidents and even deaths.

Alcohol and drugs can significantly impair a driver’s ability to make the good decisions on the road and even make it challenging for them to realize that cyclists are on the road with them at all.

Where possible, stay off of busy roads and stick to sidestreets where you’re likely to see less traffic.

Driver and Rider Fatigue

According to the National Safety Council, about 100,000 drowsy-driving crashes result in 50,000 injuries and 800 fatalities. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety also showed that 328,000 drowsy driving crashes happen every year.

Drivers who are out early, out late, or didn’t have adequate rest before driving, can leave other motorists and cyclists seriously injured.

Again, practice defensive cycling. Be sure you’re visible and riding in a way that doesn’t surprise drivers or other cyclists.

Bicycle Accidents FAQ

Where Do Most Cycling Accidents Occur?

Most cycling accidents happen in urban areas. According to the National Safety Council, in 2017, 75% of bike accidents occurred in urban areas, while 25% of accidents happened in rural areas.

To be more specific, 27% of accidents that caused a bicyclist’s death happened in intersections, and 63% occurred in other areas outside of intersections.

Additionally, 10% of bike accidents happened in other locations, such as sidewalks, roadsides, parking areas, trails, medians, and more.

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What Percent of Bicycle Accidents Involve A Motor Vehicle?

96 percent of bicycle accidents involve a motor vehicle.

As per NHTSA’s Traffic Safety Facts Sheet, out of 783 pedal cyclist deaths, 753 involved a car.

Eighty-two percent of these cyclists were struck by the front of a car, while 44% of automobile accidents involved light trucks.

What Should You Do After a Bike Accident?

What Should You Do After a Bike Accident
  • Call 911 immediately, if you are able!
  • Wait for the police or emergency medical services to arrive at the scene of the accident.
  • Inform the police about your version of events. Everything should be recorded for your incident report.
  • Obtain the contact numbers of the other drivers involved and witnesses present on the scene. 
  • Preserve evidence, which includes damaged clothing, helmet, bicycle and any other personal property. 

As a cyclist, make sure to follow these tips after an accident involving a car or truck:

  • Wait for the police to arrive at the scene of the accident.
  • Inform the police about your version of events. Everything should be recorded for your incident report including accident causes.
  • Obtain the contact numbers of the other drivers involved and witnesses present on the scene.
  • Preserve evidence, which includes a damaged helmet or reflector.
  • Seek medical treatment and keep track of your medical expenses.
  • Meet with experienced bicycle accident attorneys.

Why Should You Hire Bicycle Accident Attorneys After a Crash?

One of the biggest mistakes injured cyclists make is going through the entire legal process alone. This is especially true if the accident didn’t result in any cyclist deaths.

Regardless if you didn’t suffer from any personal injury from the accident, it’s important to hire experienced attorneys because of these reasons:

  • They will communicate with insurance companies on your behalf. With an attorney working for you, it’ll be easier for you to understand the entire process, determine which documents to comply with, and know how to negotiate so you can get the best compensation for your losses.
  • They will defend your rights, especially when you plan to file a claim or lawsuit. They’ll know how to gather evidence and prove that other drivers who share the road are at-fault.
  • They will ensure proper investigation of the accident. They may hire investigators to look at the case and ensure that statements from witnesses are gathered before the trial starts.

What Are the Most Common Injuries From Bicycle Accidents?

Bike accident victims suffer from different types of injuries. While some accidents lead to bicycle deaths, other victims leave the scene completely unscathed.

Commonly, bicycle accident victims suffer the following injuries:

  • Brain and head injuries, such as skull fracture, brain contusion, or concussion.
  • Neck and back injuries, like herniated disc, torn ligaments, or pinched nerves.
  • Face injuries, namely dental fractures, puncture wounds, or facial fractures.
  • Hip injuries that can include hip fracture, labral tear, or dislocation of the joint.
  • Leg, knee, and foot injuries, such as a crushed ankle or torn ligament.
  • Broken bones that can lead to further issues, such as infections and paralysis in some cases.
  • Skin and soft tissue injuries, like road rash, puncture wounds, or scrapes.
  • Internal injuries, such as internal bleeding or injured organs.

How Can You Stay Safe as a Cyclist and Avoid Bicycle Deaths?

How Can You Stay Safe as a Cyclist and Avoid Bicycle Deaths

When riding a bicycle, you should follow safety precautions all the time.

To stay safe as a cyclist, it’s important to follow these tips:

  • Wear a bicycle helmet to protect your head from injuries. Make sure that the helmet is the correct size – not too loose and too tight. Research so you can know more about helmet laws in your locality to save yourself from any legal repercussions.
  • Learn about the bicycle use laws in your area as these vary from one place to another. For example, in Arizona, when riding slower than the normal flow of traffic, bicyclists must ride as close to the edge of the roadway or to the right-hand curb. Don’t forget to check the manual released by the Department of Transportation in your area, as well.
  • Always wear bright-colored clothes when cycling day and night. When cycling in the evening, you must take extra precautions and increase your visibility by using reflectors and blinking lights to catch drivers attention.
  • Educate yourself by learning about the most common types of crashes, so you can be on the lookout for them. The more you know, the easier it’ll be for you to avoid a crash involving a motor vehicle, another cyclist, or a pedestrian.
  • Practice looking over your shoulder without losing your balance or swerving. You can also purchase a rear-view mirror for your helmet or bike handlebar.

Learn More About Causes of Accidents to Reduce Cycling Fatalities

Biking can be a lot of fun but fun, but your first priority on your bike should be safety! You should also make sure that you’re safe around other motorists.

Take note of all the information mentioned in this article, and try to keep it in mind when you’re biking.

I hope that this article will make your biking experience safer and more fun!

What’s Next

If you enjoyed this article, go check out my article 15 Bicycle Safety Guidelines For Riders Of All Ages

Happy Cycling!

About Informed Cyclist
Michael Rogers
I’m Michael, a cycling fanatic and the founder of Informed Cyclist. I started this site to give back to the sport I love! My mission is to bring the very best cycling advice & know-how to my readers. I hope you enjoy this site as much as I love working on it. I put a lot of heart & effort into it!

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