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Rear-End Bicycle Accidents

Rear-end Bicycle Accidents Are a Major Traffic Safety Issue

As cycling increases in popularity, more and more people are riding bicycles on major roads – especially in light of the fact that cycling as a means of commuting is more common than ever. According to the statistics released by the Census Bureau, there has been a significant and largely steady increase in the percentage of people who bike to and from work since the bureau started releasing estimates in 2005.

Census Bureau statistics for 2015, the most recent year available, estimate that the number of people using a bicycle to commute to work declined 3.8 percent in 2015. However, in 43 of the 70 largest cities in the nation, the rate at which people commute to work via a bicycle continued to increase. And in 2014, the Census Bureau reported that the number of people who traveled to work by bicycle increased about 60 percent from 2000 through 2012. In Chicago, according to the Census Bureau, the number of regular bicycle commuters increased from nearly 6,000 in 2000 to more than 15,000 in 2010.

The increased use of bicycles for transportation in this country, particularly for commuting, has led to increased provisions of bike lanes. While the use of bikes to commute is largely an urban phenomenon, more rural areas also are seeing the addition of bike lanes, although they often are limited in length.

With the increasing number of biking commuters combined with the relative scarcity of protected bike lanes come an increasing number of traffic accidents involving bicyclists. Most information on nationwide traffic fatalities comes through the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which is operated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  According to an analysis of federal statistics by a bikers’ advocate group – the Bike League – rear end collisions account for nearly half of bicyclist fatalities. Looking at the federal data, the Bike League determined that the most common collision type of bike-motor vehicle accident is a rear end collision and that such accidents account for roughly 40% of bicyclist fatalities resulting from accidents involving motor vehicles.

Other data backs up the Bike League’s conclusions. A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data Institute found that more than 3,300 bicyclists were killed in traffic accidents from 2008 to 2012. The IIHS determined that nearly 75 percent of those fatalities were caused by being struck by the front end of a passenger vehicle. Most often, those crashes involved a motor vehicle striking a bicycle traveling in the same direction, hitting the bicyclists from behind. Such crashes accounted for 45 percent of all fatal accidents involving a motor vehicle and a bicycle. While the number of people killed in a bicycle accident is low compared to the total number killed each year in motor vehicle crashes, that number has been growing. In 2010, 621 bicyclists died in traffic accidents. That number rose to 741 by 2013, and estimates indicate that the number continues to climb as greater numbers of people commute by bicycle.

Can Rear-End Bicycle Collisions Be Avoided?

Increasingly, new vehicles are equipped with front crash prevention technology that detects the presence of another vehicle in front of your car and, when needed, automatically brakes to avoid a collision. The IIHS contends that such technology could be improved to also detect bicyclists in front of your vehicle. The detection sensitivity required to accomplish that apparently is not readily available at this point, but the IIHS argues that such improved technology would prevent or mitigate a large percentage of rear-end bicycle accidents.

Like rear-end motor vehicle accidents, rear-end bicycle accidents are almost never the fault of the bicyclist who is hit from behind. Such accidents almost always result from a failure of care on the part of the person driving the vehicle that strikes the vehicle or bicyclist from behind. Nonetheless, there are things cyclists and motorists can do to help prevent rear-end bicycle accidents. In the absence of bike lanes, there is little a cyclist can do to avoid being rear-ended by an inattentive driver. Even when using rear-view mirrors, a bicyclist lacks the acceleration power to get out of the way of a motorist who appears to be about to rear-end the cyclist.

Nonetheless, there are steps a cyclist can take, including:

  • Get a headlight.  Even for daytime riding, a bright white light that has a flashing mode can make you more visible to motorists.

  • Wave your arm to ensure a driver sees you.

  • Ride further left in the lane.  Drivers aren’t looking for things close to the curb, even if those “things” are bicyclists. Drivers look to the middle of the lane, so especially in city riding, keep close to the center of the lane where there are no bike lanes.

  • Never ride against traffic.  Nearly one-fourth of crashes involve cyclists riding the wrong way. 

  • Don't stop in the blind spot.

  • Don't pass on the right. 

  • Signal your turns. If you make it clear what you are doing and which direction you are planning on heading, you are less likely to be hit.

  • Don’t listen to music or use a cell phone while riding. They will only distract you.

  • Ride as if you are invisible. It might seem unfair to place so much of the burden of staying safe on the bicyclist, but face it, in any collision between a car and a bike, the car wins. Accept that cars can’t see you and ride accordingly – that means never assume a driver sees what you are doing and will take appropriate precautions.

If You Have Been Injured in a Rear-End Bicycle Accident in the Chicago area, Contact the Attorneys of Abels & Annes

If you have been involved in a rear-end bicycle accident in the Chicago area, you should consult an attorney to determine what your rights are under the circumstances of your accident.

The attorneys of Abels & Annes can assist you in protecting your rights when you are involved in such an accident. Call us today at (312) 924-7575 or contact us through our website.


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