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Cyclists and Pedestrians at Risk as Traffic Fatalities Increase

April 13, 2021

As the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown business, commerce, and life in general in the spring of 2020, it’s no surprise there were fewer cars on the roads. But despite a drop of over 16% in the number of miles traveled by drivers in the first half of 2020, the rate of fatalities went up during the same period. According to studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), this could be related to increases in risky driving behavior during the pandemic, such as alcohol and drug use and speeding.

When distracted or intoxicated drivers lose control, it is often cyclists and pedestrians who suffer the worst injuries since they are less protected than drivers or passengers. At Bogaards Law, our attorneys know all too well how serious and devastating a bicycle crash can be, and we work to help those injured in San Francisco bicycle accidents receive the compensation they deserve.

Rise in Risky Driving Puts Cyclists in Danger

California has a grim history of cyclist fatalities. From 2014 to 2018, they ranked among the top 3 states for cyclist deaths, with 18% of all deaths nationwide occurring in the Golden State. The number of total traffic fatalities, including cyclist and pedestrian fatalities, declined in both 2019 and 2020, but a different trend began to appear during the shutdown in 2020. While the number of miles traveled by drivers dropped, the number of fatalities went down at a much lower rate, meaning the number of deaths on average actually increased. In San Francisco specifically, traffic fatalities remained the same from 2019 to 2020, but cyclist deaths increased, showing once again that bicyclists often face great risks on local roadways.

During the same time period, data collected from local municipalities showed that more drivers were being ticketed for speeding and intoxicated driving, and trauma centers reported treating more injured drivers with drugs and alcohol in their systems. The evidence seems to indicate that as risky driving behaviors increased, so too did traffic fatalities.

Why are Cyclists at Increased Risk in Traffic Crashes?

Drivers and passengers inside vehicles are surrounded by safety equipment that protects them in the event of a crash. But pedestrians and cyclists do not enjoy these protections and are vulnerable to much more severe injuries. In addition, the risk of injury or death for pedestrians and cyclists increases sharply with a driver’s speed. At an impact speed of 23 mph, the risk of death for a pedestrian is 10%, but at 42 mph, the risk increases to 50%. So, if drivers are speeding more often, it’s easy to see why the crashes that did occur during lockdown led to more injuries.

Defending the Rights of San Francisco Cyclists

The data emerging from 2020 shows that while traffic fatalities overall are falling, our roadways are still a very dangerous place for cyclists. Those who ride are tasked with following all the rules of the road and sharing the pavement responsibly to help avoid collisions. But drivers, too, must obey the rules, and when their negligence causes injuries, local cyclists deserve a strong advocate to defend their rights. 

As an avid cyclist, attorney Debra F. Bogaards has a deep knowledge of California bicycle law and a unique understanding of the factors that lead to bike accidents in San Francisco. She is a skilled mediator who has dedicated her career to defending those who are wronged or harmed by the actions of others. If you or a loved one have been injured or killed as a result of someone else’s actions, we may be able to help. Contact our office today to discuss your case.


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