By Keir Lee-Barber
In Utah, the rate of bicyclist-motor vehicle crashes has been following an unfortunate increasing trend for the past several years. Looking at the most recent crash data from the Utah Department of Highway Safety, the rate of bicyclist-motor vehicle crashes has been steadily increasing at an average rate of 52 per year for the years 2007 through 2012. In Utah alone there were 921 reported ambulance responses for bicycle related injury in 2012, which marks a staggering increase of 189 over the 732 responses reported in 2011.
However on a positive note, despite the increasing number of accidents each year the number of fatalities have been on the decline in Utah, down from 7 in 2010 to just 3 in 2012, though even 3 is a number which is still unfortunately too high. One of the fatalities was a result of an early evening hit and run; all too common among cycling motor-vehicle interactions.
In recently reported years in Utah over half (51%) of the bicyclists had no contributing factor to the crashes. While failure to yield right of way by the motor vehicle remains consistently the highest cause of all bicycle motor vehicle related accidents, with hit and runs being the second leading factor among total bicycle-motor vehicle crashes in Utah.
Looking at the motor-vehicle bicycle accidents around Utah’s regions and roadways various trends begin to emerge. Interestingly, crashes are consistently higher from 3 pm to 7 pm, sharply peaking at roughly 4:30 and 5 pm each day. Sadly the common roadways for cyclists in Utah also frequently become the scenes of these motor-vehicle interactions. For example 700 East in Salt Lake City, not an uncommon route for many cyclists, has vastly more accidents than other streets within only a block or two.
Approximately 56 cyclists are struck every year in Utah by vehicles in parking lots and other non-traffic areas.
In 2012 bicycle motor-vehicle crashes for Weber country almost doubled its running average for crashes in previous years.
Salt Lake County consistently sees the most crashes, averaging 439 per year. Utah County ranking second, with 162 per year, followed by Davis County seeing approximately 67 crashes each year
Adjusting for population size in 2012 and 2011, Grand County was among the most injurious for cyclists in the roadway, though Salt Lake County always outpaces the other counties of Utah in comparison.
Keri Gibson, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Coordinator for Utah’s Highway Safety Office, is aware of the growing problem. They are working diligently to encourage safe cycling and to promote positive interaction between bicyclists and drivers. Projects include the 4th Annual Road Respect Tour which will be hosted around the state during May and June, 2014 Additionally, communities statewide are encouraged to earn the designation of a UDOT Road Respect Community, which certifies community wide increases in awareness and education for all on the safety of cyclists on the road. Gibson stated, “I think a large part of it is that there is more cyclists out there…with projects like the clean air initiative people are more cautious of their transportation choices.” Though the official summary has not been published yet she noted there were a total of 6 bicycle motor vehicle accident fatalities in the Utah in 2013. As both a strong participant and advocate of cycling and road safety she expressed a closing sentiment “as a state we can definitely improve on watching out for cyclists, drivers can be aware.”
Bicycle-Motor Vehicle Crashes by County (Utah 2012)
|County||Total Crashes||Rate per 10,000 Population|
|All other counties of Utah reported zero crashes in 2012|
Source: Utah Department of Public Safety Utah Crash Summary 2012
Utah Department of Public Safety; Highway Safety – Utah Crash Summaries
Utah Department of Health, Utah’s Indicator Based Information System for Public Health