Best tool to reduce severity of bike crashes, other kinds, is for everyone to slow down

Morgantown hasn’t been in step with pedestrian safety for years.
That was probably never more apparent than this year following a rash of vehicle vs. pedestrian accidents.
At least two of those proved fatal to pedestrians, another left a woman critically injured while others resulted in serious or minor injuries.
This month, it also became more apparent than ever Morgantown is not exactly a bicycle-friendly community, either.
A bicyclist riding home from his workplace July 6 was struck from behind by a vehicle and fatally injured.
A quick look around the state this week noted another deadly bicycle crash in Raleigh County, as a teenager pushed his bike along a busy road.
While another state man from Elkins died in Massachusetts, after being involved in a bicycle accident.
According to the latest data, a total of 835 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2016. That’s the highest number of bicyclist deaths since 1991.
Locally, the disrepair of our roads and their geography — winding routes — make for part of the unsafe conditions facing bicyclists and motorists.
However, it’s obvious there are a lot of vehicles on many roads that were not designed for that volume of traffic.
There’s also a presumed increase in the number of people choosing to walk or bike to their destinations.
Distractions built into today’s cars, along with pervasive cell-phone use, also has to be factored into too many of these accidents.
And though we don’t have the data to back this up, we suspect that speeding tickets are low on the pecking order for law enforcement.
We believe that the best tool to reduce the severity of most crashes, including bike-pedestrian crashes, is for everybody to slow down.
Other factors and circumstances accounting for the increase include poor lighting, bad weather, lack of bike lanes or sidewalks and reckless driving.
According to analyses by traffic safety groups a double-digit uptick in bicycle deaths comes at a time when motor vehicle deaths are barely rising.
Not to mention, most national data indicate in at least half of all bicycle fatalities the victims were not wearing helmets.
Many of these fatalities happen at intersections and peak during evening hours.
Clearly, bicyclists and pedestrians must take responsibility, too, for complying with traffic laws and their own safety.
But it’s critically important that everyone behind the wheel of a vehicle slow down for bicyclists and pedestrians.
We are often encouraged (or should we say, warned) to be careful driving.
Maybe they ought to add, “Take it slow,” around bicyclists and pedestrians.

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