One point the police officer made at the La Colina meeting this week really made an impact: He stated that Jake's accident was very rare. Being hit from the rear only accounts for 2% of all bike/car accidents. However, he went on to say that even though it only occured 2% of the time, this type of accident accounted for 50% of all fatalities."
Some statistics may help put things into perspective.
It's more dangerous to drive a motor vehicle than a bike. 19.9 motorists
per million die in car crashes each year; only 16.5 bicyclists per
million die in bike crashes each year. On a per hour basis, motorists
are nearly twice as likely to die in crashes as bicyclists are.
Very few bicyclist crashes involve motor vehicles. Falls account for
59%, running into a fixed object 14%, moving motor vehicles in 11%, and
another bicycle is 9%.
Don't bike after dark if you can avoid it. 39% bicyclist fatalities
occur between 6:00 PM & midnight.
Choose streets with bikelanes. They are between 38-56% safer than major
or minor streets without them. They are also safer in terms of crashes
than paved off-road trails that in turn are safer than unpaved trails and
Avoid streets with fast-moving traffic. 80% of bicyclist fatalities
occur at crash speeds above 30 MPH. There are more bike-car crashes at
intersections, but more fatalities occur between them where motorists
Don't drink and bike (or drive). In fatal bike/car collisions, 9%
motorists and 11% bicyclists had been drinking.
A study from Washington state says that 6% of bike/car crashes involved
the motorist hitting the bicyclist from behind. A national database says
that 9% bike/car crashes involved a motorist overtaking a bicyclist. Of
those, in 1.3% the motorist failed to detect the bicyclist -- the case of
In terms of bicycling versus other activities, the number of emergency
room visits for bicyclists are considerably lower per hour of activity
than for soccer, basketball, squash & football.
I do have data on bicyclist fatalities in Santa Barbara County since
1990. 12 out of the 25 did NOT involve motor vehicles (3 were bike/bike
collisions). Of the 13 motor vehicle crashes, 6 did involve being hit
from behind. While these small numbers are not statistically reliable,
it does suggest that being hit from behind is a serious cause of
fatalities -- nearly the 50% quoted at the town meeting.