Unhappy Anniversary


On May 30th 1896, the first recorded accident in America which involved two vehicles occurred in New York, when Henry Wells of Springfield Massachusetts collided with Evelyn Thomas of New York.

Wells was driving a Duryea Motor Wagon, the first car to be made in series in the USA – 13 in their first year – and Thomas was riding a bicycle. Plus ca change! Thomas went to hospital with a broken leg and Wells spent the night in jail.

It’s all gone downhill from there. According to the US Census Bureau, there are now close to 5.7 million motor vehicle accidents reported to police every single year, with around 30,000 of them fatal crashes. There are also 700 cyclists killed by motor vehicles each year in the USA.

We warn our children of “stranger danger” – and rightly so. In the year ending March 2014, there were 62 children who died after deliberately inflicted injury, abuse or neglect. But statistically, we should be warning them of the far numerically larger danger: people in vehicles.

The latest RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) figures were published in August 2014, showing that 109 cyclists were killed in the UK, of whom 6 were children. Beyond that there were 3143 seriously injured cyclists, of whom 276 were children, as well as a further 16,168 reported less serious injuries (with 1676 children included in that figure). Summarising, that’s 6 children killed & 1952 injured; 103 adult cyclists killed and 17359 injured.

Most “accidents” happen in urban areas, which is where most cycling takes place. Almost two thirds of cyclists killed or seriously injured were involved in collisions at or near a road junction, with T-junctions being the most commonly involved. Roundabouts are also especially dangerous for cyclists. As speeds increase, so does the severity of the injuries suffered by cyclists, which means that more cyclists suffer fatal injuries on higher speed roads – almost half of cyclist deaths take place on rural roads.

RoSPA lists the most common accidents as:
• Motorist emerging into path of cyclist
• Motorist turning across path of cyclist
• Cyclist riding into the path of a motor vehicle, often riding off a pavement
• Cyclist and motorist going straight ahead
• Cyclist turning right from a major or minor road
• Child cyclist playing or riding too fast

40% of cyclists suffer arm injuries and 25% suffer leg injuries when involved in an accident. RoSPA also state “Head injuries, ranging from fatal skull fractures and brain damage to minor concussion and cuts, are very common injuries to cyclists. Hospital data shows that over 40% of cyclists, and 45% of child cyclists, suffer head injuries. A study of 116 fatal cyclist accidents in London and rural areas found over 70% of the cyclist fatalities in London had moderate or serious head injuries in London, and over 80% of those killed in collisions on rural roads.

How many deaths of cyclists – adults and children – will it take till we reach the tipping point that Holland got to? It was their “Stop de Kindermoord” (Stop the Child Murder) campaign that got their huge transition underway to having such excellent cycling infrastructure, which reversed the decline in the number of people cycling and saw it increase to a world leading position; in 1972 3264 people died on Dutch roads and in 1973 450 road deaths were children.

The further frightening thing is that the CTC (Cyclists Touring Club) have reported that the number of drivers found guilty of any “causing death” offence in England and Wales dropped by 11% between 2013 and 2014, even though the number of people killed on the roads has recently shown an upward trend.

Cherry Allan of the CTC reported “315 drivers were convicted of ‘causing death’ driving offences last year – an 11% fall compared with the 355 convictions for these offences in 2013. Although we don’t yet know the total number of road deaths in England and Wales for 2014, we do know that Great Britain as a whole saw a 1% increase in the year to September 2014 over the corresponding period a year earlier (1,730 fatalities compared with 1,711). In short, prosecutions and convictions for fatal driving offences are down, despite an increase in the number of fatalities.”


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