Nationwide and in South Carolina, there are far fewer bicycle fatalities than there are traffic deaths involving drivers and passengers of motor vehicles, motorcyclists, and even pedestrians. So, it can come as a shock when you hear of someone killed in a bicycle accident, like the North Charleston woman who died this past summer after being hit by a dump truck. That shock should also serve as a wake-up call for those who don’t recognize the risks to bicycle riders on South Carolina streets.
South Carolina makes multiple lists of the most dangerous states for bicyclists, each using slightly different metrics. That may seem surprising when you consider that in the decade from 2012-2021, South Carolina had just 186 bicyclist fatalities. That’s about 2.2% of all bike rider deaths in the U.S. during that time, and only works out to an average of 18-19 bicycle fatalities per year. In fact, more than half of bicyclist fatalities each year are attributable to the five states with the highest number of casualties–and South Carolina is not among them. But, the number of annual deaths isn’t the most meaningful metric.
Where are Bicycle Riders Most at Risk?
Highest Ranking States for Per Capita Bicyclist Fatalities
According to Cycling Weekly, Florida is the most dangerous state for bicyclists, with a bicyclist fatality rate of 6.18 per 100,000 residents. The rest of the top five include Louisiana, Arizona, Delaware and South Carolina. South Carolina’s per capita fatality rate for bike riders is 3.5 per 100,000.
Per capita rates provide a bit more information than the raw number of bicycle deaths in a state, but they still don’t give us the whole picture on the risk to bicyclists. That’s because bicycle riding is more popular in some states than others, and because different climates around the U.S. mean that bicyclists in some states ride year-round, while those in other states are much less likely to be riding in the winter months.
Fatalities per Bicycle Miles Traveled
Streetlight Data recognized the flaw in using per capita rates to assess risk levels, and switched to a new metric: bicyclist deaths by bike miles traveled. When that new ranking system was applied, South Carolina jumped to the second-riskiest state for bike riders, ahead of Florida.
Charleston County Also Makes the List
In addition to states, researchers looked at metro areas and counties around the country. Charleston County was #5 among counties with populations of 250,000 or more for per capita bicycle fatalities.
Bicycle Injuries in Traffic are Far More Common
While bicyclist deaths in traffic are relatively rare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says about 130,000 bicyclists are injured in traffic each year. A wide variety of factors contribute to these injuries and to the fatalities discussed above. Some of the most common include:
- Road design that isn’t friendly to bicyclists, such as narrow streets, lack of shoulders, and no bicycle lanes
- Distracted driving by motorists sharing the road with bike riders
- Bicyclists not observing traffic laws
- Failure to yield the right of way
Researchers have also found that car-bicycle accidents are more likely to be fatal to the bicyclist if they are under the influence of alcohol.
Liability for Bicycle Accident Injuries and Death
If you were hit by a car while biking or have lost a loved one to a bicycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation. For example, if the driver who hit you was negligent, they will likely be legally responsible for the accident and damages you suffered. Some common examples include a driver who didn’t see you because they were texting or otherwise distracted, a driver who hit you while speeding or disregarding a traffic signal, or a driver who was under the influence or fatigued at the time of the accident.
Depending on how and why the accident occurred, there may be other responsible parties. It’s also possible that you may share some of the blame for the accident.
The best way to find out whether you have a claim against the driver who hit you and whether there may be other responsible parties is to talk with an experienced Charleston/North Charleston bicycle accident attorney.