When it comes to bicyclist accidents, many common causes come to mind: distracted driving, drunk driving, failure to keep a lookout and failure to yield, just to name a few. But one of simplest yet deadliest causes of bicycle accidents is often overlooked: speed. Speeding drivers are more likely to collide with bicyclists and more likely to kill them in that collision.

This is such an important safety concern that it deserves its own public awareness campaign. And although the effort was very small, the California Office of Traffic Safety recently did create a safety campaign focused on speeding.

Short ads on television and online

The OTS campaign so far consists of two 15-second videos and a 30-second video that will air on television and will likely also appear in online ads. The spots remind drivers to slow down, and at least one also implores them to pay attention to the road (rather than their phones). The OTS is also reportedly working on providing free lawn signs with reminders to drivers to slow down.

This is a tiny step, but it is at least a step in the right direction. The OTS has never focused its efforts specifically on speeding. And as we’ll discuss below, it is a mistake to discount the role that speeding plays in making accidents both more likely and more deadly.

Small speed changes make a huge difference

Bicyclists and pedestrians have no external protection in the event of a crash. Therefore, even small increases in motor vehicle speed can significantly increase the risk of serious injury or death when that automobile strikes a bicyclist or pedestrian. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there is a measurable injury risk increase as speed goes up. In collisions between cyclists/pedestrians and automobiles:

  • 17 mph is associated with a 10 percent risk of serious injury
  • 25 mph is associated with a 25 percent risk
  • 33 mph is associated with a 50 percent risk
  • 41 mph is associated with a 75 percent risk
  • 48 mph is associated with a 90 percent risk

Consider the following scenario: A driver is driving in a residential area with a posted speed limit of 25 mph. He is in a hurry and decides to travel 34 mph, which is just less than 10 mph over the limit to reduce his chances of getting a speeding ticket. But that little bit of extra speed makes him twice as likely to seriously injure or kill a bicyclist if a collision occurs. This is eye-opening information that could truly change driver behavior.

What you can do to help

If you are an avid bicyclist, you also probably drive from time to time. When you do, please take note of how fast you are going and whether you are exceeding the speed limit. Feel free to watch the OTS videos online and share them with other drivers in your life.

If you are a bicyclist who has been struck by a speeding driver, please know that you have rights and legal options, including the right to pursue full and fair compensation from the at-fault driver.