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New Jersey bicyclists at risk

On Behalf of | Feb 23, 2024 | Personal Injury

In January, the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety released its preliminary data about fatal traffic accidents in the state in 2023, and there was some good news. Overall, there were 585 fatal crashes reported in New Jersey in 2023, down from 646 the year before. That’s a decrease of 9.4%.

Researchers noticed lower fatality rates for a wide range of people, including drivers, passengers and pedestrians. However, they found that the number of cyclists killed in traffic accidents increased. In 2022, there were 16 cyclists reported killed in traffic accidents on New Jersey roads. In 2023, the number was 24. Back in 2021, there were 26 cyclists killed on New Jersey roads, the highest number in more than 30 years.

In fact, other sources show a worrisome trend for bicyclists nationwide. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that the number of bicyclists killed in traffic accidents has been rising steadily since 2010, with a yearly average of 800.

Why is this happening?

There may be no one good answer for why more bicyclists are dying in traffic accidents. However, some other statistics shed light on what might be happening. One of the most important has to do with the fact that these accidents are happening primarily in urban areas.

In one sense, this is to be expected: There is more traffic and there are more bicyclists in urban areas, so it’s much more likely that a motor vehicle-bicycle collision will happen in an urban area. However, if that were the only explanation, then the number would remain relatively stable. In fact, the urban share of bicycle fatalities has jumped. In 2011, 65% of bicycle traffic deaths occurred in urban areas. In 2021, that number had jumped to 85%.

This suggests a few possible explanations. For one, many people are choosing to bike to work in urban areas. Many cities have promoted biking as a way to improve health and reduce traffic and pollution. With more cyclists on city streets, there comes a greater risk of accidents. And since bicyclists have few safety features available to them, any collision with a car or truck can easily be deadly for the bicyclist, even if the motor vehicle driver is traveling at relatively low speeds.

However, researchers aren’t letting drivers off the hook for this problem. Some researchers point to a “safety in numbers” approach to bicycle safety. They say that the more cyclists are on the road, the more drivers know to be aware of cyclists. This leads drivers to be more careful. According to these researchers, one reason the fatality rate for cyclists is currently so high is that — somewhat paradoxically — there aren’t yet enough bikes on the road to make drivers aware.

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