If you thought that American states were making progress on bicycle safety, here’s some bad news: bike accident fatalities are happening more than at any time since 1990.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced its grim findings for 2018, the most recent year available. A total of 857 riders were killed in collisions with motor vehicles that year, the deadliest total in 28 years. And it was not a fluke. After U.S. bicycle crash deaths reached an all-time low in 2010, the rate has been going up steadily.

Why is this happening?

A variety of factors could be to blame for this tragic trend. WKRG-TV notes that since Congress ended the national 65 mph speed limit in 1995, local and state authorities have increased the speed limit on thousands of roads. From 2017-2018, 196 miles of roads here in Los Angeles had new, higher speed limits. The faster a vehicle is going, the more likely it will be that its driver will lose control and cause an accident.

Distracted driving is also contributing to the rising bicycle accident death count. Despite efforts in California and nationwide to stop cellphone use by drivers, 25% of drivers admit to being distracted drivers. No doubt, the actual number of drivers using their cellphone, eating, applying makeup or otherwise driving distracted is much higher than that.

What happens next after a serious bike accident

Drivers have a legal duty to watch out for bikes on the road. Riders have little to protect themselves from a multi-ton car or truck bearing down on them. Often, riders are severely injured. They can be disabled for life or even killed, as the NHTSA data reminds us.

When the worst occurs, riders and their families need to know their rights to financial recovery. A personal injury lawyer who regularly represents bicycle accident victims can explain these rights in detail.