Study: Minnesota drivers most likely to strike cyclists with front of car

A recent study found that vehicles involved in cyclist fatalities are most likely to strike the bike with the front of the car.

In 2012, there were 4.5 percent fewer accidents involving bicycles in Minnesota than there were in 2011. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, there was actually an increase, however, in the number of fatalities.

Warm weather prompts many people to spend more time outdoors, which means motorists in Woodbury soon may see more cyclists on the road. A recent study gives insight to how car-bicycle accidents occur and even sheds light into technology that could prevent these incidents.

The study

Researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety analyzed bicycle crash data from 2008 to 2012. During that timeframe, more than 3,300 cyclists suffered fatal injuries due to a crash with a motor vehicle. The study revealed that in the majority of these cases - 74 percent - the front of the car struck the cyclist. Of those, the scenario breakdown is as follows:

  • In 45 percent of the incidents, the bicycle and vehicle were traveling in the same direction.
  • In 22 percent, the cyclist was crossing traffic and the vehicle was driving straight.
  • In 2 percent, the cyclist was crossing traffic and the vehicle was making a turn.
  • In 1 percent, the vehicle was moving with traffic and the vehicle was making a turn.

When factoring all crashes into account, including ones that did not produce a fatality, the most common scenario involved a vehicle moving straight ahead and a bicycle crossing its path.

Using the findings

One of the positive outcomes to the study is that it may provide insight for vehicle technology. Many cars made today are equipped with crash prevention systems. Currently, as the IIHS points out, these systems are intended to prevent vehicles from a rear-end collision. Adding the component to prevent an incident with a bike, the study's authors say, would only require slight changes.

Several manufacturers have already implemented avoidance systems that can detect movement from people, such as pedestrians and bicyclists, and even large animals. This study from the IIHS predicts that if systems are created to identify the three most common scenarios outlined above, it could prevent as many as 52 percent of today's fatal bicycle accidents.

Minnesota bike laws

Whether or not these systems develop, it is important for cyclists and motorists to understand Minnesota's bike laws. For example, the state requires people on bicycles to obey traffic laws and use a lamp and reflectors when riding at night. On the flip side, motorists are required to share the road with bicycles at all times unless cyclists are prohibited.

Through working together, cyclists and motorists can make the road a safer place for everyone. Negligent drivers should, however, be held accountable for injuries or other damages they cause. Anyone who has questions about these issues should consult with an attorney.