If you are a cyclist in Florida, you might want to take a minute and review your safe cycling practices. Nationally, Florida ranks first in bicycle fatalities at 5.7 per million. On average, the state sees 110 cyclist deaths annually. The national average is only 2.3 deaths per million. Even though Florida is lower than California (by 9) in a three-year death total, population size sets Florida in the top spot. Most of the fatalities involve drivers not seeing a cyclist.
Whether it’s the sunny skies luring more bikers outdoors or the appeal of cheap transportation, the fact is that cyclist deaths are rising nationwide. The number of cyclist fatalities increased 12.2 percent between 2014 and 2015.
What Causes Fatal Bicycle Accidents?
As per statistics in the Florida Traffic Crash Records Database, Alcohol was a contributing factor in as many as 100 fatal bike accidents in Florida between 2013 and 2016. The numbers include blood alcohol levels ranging from .01 to .45. More than half (56) of the 100 people with alcohol in their bloodstream had levels between .16 and .30. The levels would render a motorist legally intoxicated, and these elevated levels contribute to increased impairment including speech, memory, concentration, balance, and judgment, according to Aware, Awake, Alive.
Another 18 people had blood alcohol levels between .06 and .15. Surprisingly, 13 blood alcohol levels between .31 and .45. At those levels, people lose consciousness, experience blackouts, or even stop breathing.
These numbers are in line with national statistics that showed nearly 25 percent of cyclist fatalities involved cyclists who were legally drunk, according to Reuters.
There were 578 fatal bike accidents in Florida between 2013 and 2016, so alcohol-related deaths make up nearly 1/5 of all fatalities. In 2017, an additional 111 cyclists died, it’s unclear how many of those deaths were alcohol-related.
Just more than half (51 percent) of the fatal accidents occurred when it was completely dark, both in areas without lighting and areas with lights. Roughly 40 percent of all the fatal crashes happened in daylight. Dusk and dawn had the fewest accidents. This number isn’t incredibly shocking, as national studies show that the most common cause of collisions between a bicycle and car occurred because the driver could not see the cyclist.
Some factors were surprisingly underrepresented. The weather, for example, likely only contributed to 23 percent of the accidents. Nearly 80 percent of the fatalities occurred in clear weather, and in 92 percent of accidents, the ground was dry.
A surprising trend is an increase in hit and run fatalities. The AAA Foundation reported that the number of hit and runs is the highest it’s ever been, and 2/3 of the victims were either walking or biking. The likely culprit: distracted driving.
When Did the Accidents Occur?
Accidents spread relatively evenly throughout the year, but some months had higher fatalities than others. There were 67 fatalities in November, December had 65, and January and March both had 64. The lowest months for bicycle fatalities include June, with 40, July and September with 47, and April with 48. Heat and rain may deter cyclists during the summer months, which could account for higher numbers in the fall and winter.
The highest fatality rates occurred between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. and 9 p.m. and midnight. The rate fits with other statistics that showed most of the accidents happened when it was dark. Difficulty seeing cyclists is likely the cause of higher death rates at night.
Where Do Fatal Bicycle Accidents Happen in Florida
The numbers show that 64 percent of the accidents occurred in locations other than intersections. These numbers include anywhere on the roadside. Of those that did happen at intersections, 60 percent occurred at 4-way stops and almost 40 percent occurred at T-intersections.
Fatal accidents occurred primarily on state roads, county roads, local streets, and federal roads. Only one occurred in a parking lot and seven on forest roads. Many of the fatalities occurred on local roads, but there are also clusters of accidents along State Route 1, as well as State Routes 997, 70, and 92.
Florida counties with the highest fatality rates include:
- Miami-Dade (66)
- Broward (58)
- Hillsborough (49)
- Orange County (40)
- Palm Beach (39)
Unsurprisingly, these five counties also have the highest populations in Florida, according to Florida Demographics. Interestingly, Orange is the fifth highest in population but has the fourth highest fatality rate.
The Unincorporated areas of Miami-Dade (31), take the top spot for cities/communities with the most fatalities in Florida. Tampa had 24 deaths, and Orlando had 22. Orlando and Miami both rank in the top tourism cities in the state, which may also contribute to the higher numbers.
What Can Be Done?
Both cyclists and drivers need to take precaution.
Texting and driving in Florida is illegal, in that cops can give you a fine if they pull you over for speeding or another incident and they determine you were texting while driving. Despite the gray area, drivers should keep their phones away while driving, and pay closer attention to roadsides, where bikers are present.
For their part, cyclists should do all they can to ride safely. Additionally, wearing bright clothing, using bike lights, wearing a helmet (always!), and installing reflectors on the bike can reduce the chances of getting hit.
We are hopeful that at some point the city of Miami will make good in its promise to make the promote cycling, increase rider safety. and to adjust the width of bike lanes (increasing from four-feet to seven feet.) Communities are also looking at educating drivers. Events like Florida Bike Month and Critical Mass force drivers to be more aware and take precautions. With more cyclists hitting the road, it’s likely drivers are going to have to make some changes to accommodate their road mates. If you’ve been injured in a bike crash or know someone who has, contact our Miami bike accident attorneys for a free consultation today.
Mark Kaire has been practicing law in Miami for nearly 15 years. He is dedicated to helping the injured people of Miami receive compensation. Mr. Kaire has been blogging on Miami’s legal issues for 4 years.