Preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that overall traffic deaths reached their lowest level since 1949 in 2011. But despite the drop in overall deaths, bicycle accident fatalities increased by almost 9 percent during the same year.
According to the NHTSA’s data, 2011 saw the lowest traffic fatality rate that has ever been recorded in the United States. At just 1.1 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles driven, the 2011 total declined from the rate of 1.11 in 2010.
Some industry experts believe that the decline in traffic fatalities and increase in bicyclist deaths can be partially attributed to more people making the transition from driving to bicycling during their daily commutes.
Bicycists Growing in Number
In Washington D.C., experts estimate that the number of bicyclists increased by approximately 175 percent between 2004 and 2011. However, the city’s bicycle infrastructure nearly tripled during the same time frame. The fact that the city significantly improved and grew its bicycling network provides a much safer environment for bicyclists.
“Our culture is beginning to move away from driving and toward healthier and greener modes of transportations,” says Jonathan Adkins of the Governors Highway Safety Association. “We need to be able to accommodate all these forms of transportation safely.”
The NHTSA says it is actively working to determine any possible factors that may have contributed to the increase in deaths from bicycle accidents and semi truck accidents.
Experts say that a number of states have increased speed limits more recently, and that this could be a contributing factor to the spike in fatalities. For example, Texas recently increased the speed limit on a stretch of Highway 130 to 85 MPH. Adkins says this highway has the highest speed limit in the nation.