Between 2016 and 2018, there were approximately 2.6 bicycle fatalities for every 1 million people in the United States. This figure represents a nationwide increase in bike fatalities, but it is relatively low compared to the rate in California, which was 3.9 per 1 million people. 

According to U.S. News and World Report, the 455 bicyclists who died in traffic accidents in California between 2016 and 2018 represented the greatest number of bicycle fatalities over a three-year period in the state in 25 years. If you ride a bicycle in California, you probably wonder what accounts for the increase. Researchers attribute it to several different factors. 

Greater traffic volume 

There are more motor vehicles on the road in recent years. This is due in part to the rise of ride-hailing services. Drivers who work for these companies travel around with their vehicles empty while waiting to pick up fares. At the same time, there are also more bicycles on the road due in part to the increase in bike-sharing programs. The increasing traffic volume on the road and the more intense mixing of bikes and cars mean a greater risk for traffic accidents and fatalities. 

Larger motor vehicles 

It is not only that there are more motor vehicles on the road; the type of vehicle also makes a difference. Increasingly popular SUVs are large vehicles that sit higher compared to low-riding sedans. This changes the point of impact in a collision with a bicycle. An SUV is more likely to hit you in the chest. Because of the potential for damage to your vital organs, this is more likely to prove fatal than an impact to your leg from a sedan. 

Distracted drivers 

Not only are there more drivers on the road, but more of them are likely to own smartphones. Using a phone while driving takes one’s eyes off the road, making it more likely that a driver could hit a bicyclist that he or she never even saw.