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Report warns that fatal bicycle accidents are on the rise

As we wrote earlier this week, bicycling is a popular alternative to driving these days for a number of reasons. In New York City, the decision to ride a bike is often a practical one, as traffic congestion sometimes results in longer commutes by car.

But in New York and other large cities around the country, being a bicyclist is also dangerous. Earlier this week, the Governors Highway Safety Association issued a report showing that bicyclist fatalities have been rising significantly in recent years. Between 2010 and 2012, for instance, overall motor vehicle fatalities across the U.S. went up just 1 percent. Over that same two-year period, bicyclist deaths jumped by 16 percent.

From 2010 to 2012, there were 22 states that saw an increase in the number of bicyclists killed in motor vehicle accidents. It should come as no surprise that New York was high on that list. In fact, we were one of six states that together accounted for more than half of all fatalities over that two-year period.

If your commute or exercise routine involves biking around the city, these statistics may be pretty concerning. Thankfully, there are two easy things you can do to reduce your risk of a fatal bicycle accident.

The first precaution you can take is to wear a helmet. Of all the bicyclists killed in 2012, at least two-thirds were not wearing helmets. Helmets are inexpensive and can literally save your life in the event of an accident.

The other thing you can do to protect yourself is to avoid riding while intoxicated. This happens more often than you might think. Among riders age 16 and older who were killed in 2012, about 28 percent had blood-alcohol levels at or above the 0.08 percent threshold for legal intoxication. Since the 1980s, rates of alcohol-impaired driving have declined significantly, while rates of alcohol-impaired bicycling have stayed relatively constant.

This weekend is Halloween, which means that a lot more pedestrians will likely be out after dark. Whether you are a bicyclist, pedestrian or a driver, please do your part to make sure everyone gets where they are going safe and sound.

Source: Governors Highway Safety Association, "Bicyclist Fatalities a Growing Problem for Key Groups," press release, Oct. 27, 2014

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