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2011 Study of ALL Ohio Fatal Bike Crashes

By: Steve Magas, May 3, 2011

As regular readers know, I’ve been working on a report discussing each and every fatal bicycle crash in Ohio in 2010. As I am wandering through mountains of data, reams of paper, hundreds of photographs and more, some interesting information has been popping up which I thought I would share.

THE PROCESS

Gathering data for this report has been challenging. Fortunately, the Ohio Department of Public Safety has been very cooperative. They have provided me with a series of 250+ page reports for each year from 2005-2010. Six years of data containing information about every BIKE CRASH in Ohio – all 12,084 crashes.

That seems like a lot of bike crashes – more than 12,000. But, considering that Ohioans were involved in more than 1.6 MILLION crashes from 2005-2009 [2010 stats are not in yet], those 12,000 bike crashes don’t seem so bad.

From 2005-2010, road crashes took the lives of 94 bicycle operators. That’s an average of almost 16 per year. There were just ELEVEN in 2010. During the 2005-2009 period, more than Ohio 6,000 motorists lost their lives in those 1.6 million crashes.

To put some perspective on Ohio’s figures, look at a state like Florida. Florida has 18,000,000 people while Ohio has 11,000,000. But Florida leads the nation, by far, in cycling deaths. I’m not quite sure why this is – a variety of reasons, no doubt, including an aging population, narrow/crowded roads, great cycling weather, lots of tourists, etc, etc… but I’m not sure there is rationale explanation for the NUMBERS.

Florida had almost 3,000 traffic fatalities and 125 bicycle rider deaths in 2008 [most recent NHTSA stats]. That is almost TEN TIMES the number of cycling fatalities Ohio had in 2010 and amounts to 6.82 deaths for every million people in the state. Ohio’s rate is 1.57 cycling deaths per million people.

2010 ANOMALIES IN OHIO

As I indicated, ODPS provided me with these HUGE wonderful reports of more than 12,000 bike crashes. I told myself, and YOU dear reader, I was NOT going to look at sheer statistics for my report on 2010 fatalities… but I couldn’t resist.

When I was asked to write an op-ed piece for the Columbus Dispatch, I wanted to take a look at Franklin County specifically. The ODPS reports are broken down by county, so I was quickly able to determine that in 2010 there were 241 bike crashes in Columbus. Cyclists were blamed for causing 110 [45.6%] while motorists were blamed for causing 104 [43.1%] with the balance being “undetermined.” This roughly 50/50 balance is fairly consistent with some figures I have seen and inconsistent with others which claim that motorists cause NINETY percent of car/bike crashes and inconsistent with others which claim that cyclists are cited more often than motorists for being at fault. A study in NYC claims that motorists were principally at fault in 57% of the 53 cyclist deaths they studied and a contributory factor in 78%!

[I should point out that the ODPS report I received was printed in December 2010. However, I have since learned that it takes months for all the 2010 crashes to make it into the statistical report the ODPS puts together. I am awaiting a new report, updated with the most current data, which I will use for my final Study. SEE UPDATED INFORMATION AT THE END OF THIS POST]

I also looked up close and personal at High Street in Columbus. There were 25 bike/car crashes on High Street in 2010! I haven’t looked at every county, but I’ve looked at most of the big ones in Ohio and 25 is, by far, the most bike/car crashes I have seen on any one street [albeit a very very long one...] In the High Street crashes, Police blamed the cyclist for causing only FIVE of the those 25 crashes [20%] while issuing citations to the motorist in SIXTEEN crashes [64%]. The remaining four were called “undetermined.”

The vast majority of the High Street crashes were caused by motorists who committed some sort of “right of way” violation – following too closely [ACDA], right cross & left hook, or a bad passing maneuver.

Left Cross

Right Hook

The problem with the ODPS reports that I am looking is that you have to accept the officer’s street level, on-the-spot conclusion as to “fault” without argument or analysis. The only way to independently determine if the officer was “right” in blaming one side or the other is to get the actual report and review it with an accident reconstructionist’s eye. In MANY crash reports, there is simply not enough information written down by the officer to permit this even if you had the time and inclination to do so!

In my experience of handling almost 300 “bike” cases, I have reason to suspect that there is a lot of street level error in the “fault” analysis. I have had many cases where the cyclist was told at the scene that the crash was his/her fault by the investigating police. I have many times been able to proceed on a civil claim for the cyclist against the motorist, arguing that the investigating officer didn’t get it “right.”

This is why my 2010 Report will look in detail at all FATAL bike crashes. Virtually every fatal crash in Ohio is thoroughly investigated. Witnesses are interviewed. Careful scene measurements were taken. An accident reconstruction is often performed. Numerous scene photographs are taken.  ALL of this information is publicaly available … IF you know where it is and how to get it… which,of course, I do.

However, the Columbus/Franklin County crash data got me to wondering about other big city areas in Ohio. I write a regular column for the Dayton Cycling Club’s newsletter and so I thought I would take a close look at Montgomery County’s 2010 bicycle crash stats … to say I was shocked was an understatement!

Montgomery County had 83 car/bike crashes listed in the report – 14 to a page and almost six full pages worth. As I started reviewing each line of data I noticed that the vast majority of the crashes on each page were blamed on the CYCLIST. At the end, it appeared that police in Montgomery County blamed the cyclists in 59 of the 83 crashes – a whopping 71%. Motorists were only blamed for causing 18% of the crashes [15 of 83] while 9 were said to be “undetermined.”

71% vs. 18% – that’s a HUGE difference from the almost 50/50 split I saw in Franklin County. Are Dayton cyclists that much worse at obeying the law, and that much better at causing crashes, than their brethren in Columbus?  Didn’t make sense.

So I looked at Hamilton County. 117 car/bike crashes in 2010. Bike riders were blamed in 51% and motorists blamed in 38% with 12 crashes being “undetermined.” Not quite 50/50, but a lot closer than Dayton.

Cleveland was next, and was also a shocker. Motorists in Cleveland [Cuyahoga County] were blamed for causing 144 of the 301 bike/car crashes in 2010 – or 47%. The bike rider was blamed for causing only 31% [93 crashes] while 21% [64 crashes] were listed as undetermined.

So, here’s a summary of a few Ohio counties:

Summit County
99 crashes in 2010
49 – Bike rider in error – 49%
38 Motorist in error
12 Undetermined
Butler County
51 crashes
26 bike rider in error – 51%
20 car driver 39%
5 undetermined
Franklin County
241 crashes
110 Bike Rider in error 46%
104  Motorist in error 43%
27 Undetermined 11%
I looked at High Street in Columbus. There were 25 crashes on High St. This may be the most of any street in Ohio. Of THOSE 25, only FIVE were blamed on the cyclist and 16 were blamed on the motorist. The rest were “undetermined” as to cause. Most of the 16 motorist errors were “right of way” errors – failure to yield, improper turn, ACDA – failing to “see” the bike rider and respect the fact that the bicycle operator had the right of way.
Hamilton County
117 crashes
60 Bike rider in error 51%
45 Motorist in error 38%
12 Undetermined 10%
Montgomery County
83 crashes
59 Bike rider in error 71%
15 Motorist in error 18%
9 Undetermined 11%
I still find it hard to believe that Montgomery County cyclists are that lousy at riding bikes – that they made errors leading to 71% of the crashes there last year. If I had time I would love to review the data from 2005-2010 and compare. It would be interesting to see if Montgomery County was always way out of whack or if 2010 was just an anomaly.
Cuyahoga County
301 Crashes [most in the state]
93 Bike rider in error 31%
144 Motorist in error 47%
64 Undetermined 21%
I looked at U.S. Rt 10 in Cuyahoga County, which had 11 crashes – the most of any street in Cuyahoga County. Eight were blamed on the motorist and three were blamed on the cyclist. According to the “FIPS” column, each of these were handled by FIPS 41664, which is Lakewood PD.

I haven’t had time to compute the other “bigger” counties in Ohio but will update this post when I do. But, so far, the results are surprising, to say the least.

I guess what I need here is an unpaid intern who would love to do this analysis for all 12,000+ cases, county by county, from 2005-2010… I think we would have one HUGE pile of interesting statistics – especially if, say, Dayton continued to be way off from everyone else. That could indicate some sort of systemic issue within the investigating police departments – or a complete lack of safety consciousness of the riders [which I highly doubt].

Stay tuned for more peripheral, tangential news from the 2010 Ohio Fatal Bike Crash!

UPDATE! UPDATE!

Well, I requested updated data from ODPS and today got another 250 page report for 2010. Apparently, crash reports are still trickling in from Ohio’s more than 800 police departments. This report indicates that there were 2007 Total Bike Crashes in Ohio in 2010 [up from the 1809 crashes listed in the first report I received several months ago]. This report also lists 13 fatal crashes, up from 11 in the 1st report, and 1686 injuries – up from 1530.

I have begun to go through the report, teasing out the data that is of interest to me. This includes a re-look at Montgomery County, which had such bad numbers – as cited above. The latest report is a bit different.

Montgomery County – Original report
83 crashes
59 Bike rider in error 71%
15 Motorist in error 18%
9 Undetermined 11%
Montgomery County – REVISED 5/5/11
86 crashes
55 Bike rider in error 64%
21 Motorist in error 24%
10 Undetermined 12%

This is an improvement over the initial figures, but still an aberration since motorists are blamed for causing only 1 out of 4 bike crashes. I haven’t had time to go through to figure out which cases which were previously designated the cyclist’s fault were changed… this would be SO much easier if the data were pliable – and the whole “let’s practice law” thing didn’t invade into non-legal pro bono research projects…

The numbers are going to be slightly different for all the bigger counties – so I’ll regroup and repost later with updated figures.

Good Luck and Good Riding!

Steve Magas, The Bike Lawyer

Printed from: http://www.ohiobikelawyer.com/uncategorized/2011/05/2011-study-of-all-ohio-fatal-bike-crashes/ .
© 2014.

13 Comments   »

  • Geof Gee says:

    Interesting topic Steve. I look forward to the final report.

  • Steve, thanks so much for this research & analysis you’re doing.

    Regarding where the investigating officer wrongly places fault on the cyclist, Bob Mionske has written on this as well, as you know.

    I have first hand experience with this with my first car vs bike collision as an adult. She hit me after blowing through a stop sign at an intersection where I had clear right of way. She didn’t even realize she hit me until her two kids in the back seat said something and she pulled over two blocks down the road. She apologized and felt about while we waited for the police to show up — the officer was clearly angry about having to respond to a bicycle call; did not ask the driver for license, registration or insurance; declined to even take an accident report and told *me* I need to slow down and watch for traffic. This was over 20 years ago in Texas and I still get incensed when I think about it.

  • Robert Chung says:

    Are the data available in any electronic format (like an Excel file) or do you have to flip through pages of a book?

  • Steve Magas says:

    I’m not a “researcher” but I understand you can go to ODPS’s website at
    http://www.dps.state.oh.us/CrashRequests/extract.aspx

    I just got a PDF that is electronic but you have to wander through the pages. I haven’t been able to extract to a spreadsheet…

  • Ed says:

    question, or i guess more of a comment, about fault: In Arizona, traffic unit number 1 is always “most at fault”.
    so in our data dump there is always someone at fault; even if the officer truly can’t determine fault. i guess he flips a coin :-)
    http://azbikelaw.org/blog/new-crash-forms-aliss-database/

  • Ed says:

    Steve,
    what are you seeing relating to sidewalk (meaning driveway and crosswalk) collisions?
    If the report the the city of Phx puts out is to be believed, by my count 70% of the collisions are (what i called) “sidewalk related”:
    http://azbikelaw.org/blog/listening-to-phoenixs-bicycle-collision-summary/
    We all know that sidewalk riding, and in particular counter-flow sidewalk riding is not recommended but the high percentage has me startled.
    From what i can gather (because the report doesn’t split the data this way) police routinely fault the bicyclist; this would be in direct conflict with an Arizona Supreme Court Ruling, Maxwell v. Gossett
    http://azbikelaw.org/blog/sidewalk-cycling-in-arizona/

    If that is true, it could seriously skew the bike vs. car fault stats.

  • Steve Magas says:

    Sorry for the delayed response. I have been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to tweak the blog in a month or so!
    We don’t have “sidewalk” data per se. I can tell you that of the 11 fatal bike crashes in 2010, 2 occurred as cyclists moved from sidewalk to sidewalk through a crosswalk. Both involved cyclists who made errors in crossing. Two other deaths occurred at bike trail/roadway intersections. The riders were crossing country roads to get back on the bike trail on the other side. In one case, a man and his wife were riding together in the early morning – the sun was just coming up to the cyclist’s right. Also to the right, 100′ or so, the road curved through an overpass. The wife went into the roadway first and a pickup truck came from the east, through the overpass, and the driver saw the woman in the middle of the road – he went left, but her husband was just entering the roadway and the truck hit the man. A horrific crash. Given the sight lines, the closeness of overpass and the road route, I suspect that the truck was not really “visible” to the riders as the wife entered the roadway… just an awful situation. In the other trail case, the rider was coming south on the trail. The motorist was driving westbound The motorist laid down a LONG skid – indicating, to me, a speed that may have well exceeded the speed limit. OSHP blamed the rider 100% though for entering the intersection in front of the car. The car driver also said his wife was in the backseat tending to a sick dog and they were in a hurry … this one I’m not so sure I agree with teh police…

  • John Dqwson says:

    I would say Florida’s high accident rate would be due to:
    1. 12 Month Bike Riding Season Vs 6 Month Season in Ohio – of which within a six month available season you have to take out another maybe 25% of possible time due to Midwestern fowl weather.
    2. High number of tourists riding bikes in Florida versus Ohio that last time I checked was not a big international tourist destination.
    3. As you said, aging population in Florida.
    4. Driving behavior. Florida, especially South Florida, is notorious for its fast aggressive driving. Whilst Ohio is the benchmark for conservative 55 mph driving.

  • Steve Magas says:

    @John – Thanks for writing. Ohio’s riding season has been April to November. Ohio is a very active cycling state, though, with many old, established clubs all over the state riding regular weekly rides along with many “national” event rides, such as TOSRV, GOBA and others. I think the “tourist” thing may be something, except… I haven’t seen any reporting that tourists are getting hit at an alarming rate – most of the FL deaths I seem to read about are folks who live there.

    A bigger issue than even the aging population is, I think, the traffic density. MANY more people traveling on, in essence, the same roads – motorists can’t go as fast as they want, they are in a hurry, impatient, aggressive… No city in Florida made it into the Top 10 “Worst Traffic” list – but – Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, and Miami-Ft Lauderdale took the top 4 spots in the “Most Dangerous Metro Areas” list in a report of pedestrian fatalities published by Transportation for America – “Dangerous By Design” These 4 areas are also the 4 most dangerous areas for cyclists in Florida. You can read about this report at http://t4america.org/resources/dangerousbydesign2011/

    One thing Florida did to make its roads more dangerous was the choice of WIDENING existing roads rather than building new ones. From a pedestrian perspective, you can’t walk across these huge roads in the time allotted – the sight lines are also very short so that a short period of inattention by a motorist can lead to catastrophic results. Good story here – http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2011-05-30/story/study-jacksonville-third-most-dangerous-city-pedestrians-america.

  • Ed says:

    hi steve,
    A complete surprise to me — FARS beginning with 2010 data (it became available in late 2011) has full PBcat data.
    PB cat is ped/bike crash analysis tool.
    things like crash type (right hook, drive out, etc), and bicyclist direction.

  • Steve Magas says:

    Ed
    Thanks for the note. I’m not very good at collecting and reviewing FARS data outside of the various NHTSA reports that talk about it. Sounds great!

  • Chris Balcomb says:

    I have two observations regarding the difference in crashes in Ohio vs Floridia. One is that Floridia’s weather allows for all year riding, whereas many Ohio cyclists hang up their bikes in the winter.
    Two also follows winter. I have noticed after 6 years of all year riding that one thing remains constant. In the summer everyone is in a hurry and don’t think you have any right to the road. I experince many near side-swipes, near right hooks, and near left crosses in the summer. But then winter comes and I have a few less of those experinces. However, when there is snow or ice I see a major change in motorists habits. They slow down a great deal more and give me a great deal more room when passing, they even wait longer to turn when I’m coming.

  • Steve Magas says:

    Chris, thanks for the note. The difference between the number of people killed in OH vs. FL is, I think, more of a function of the types of roads and drivers and cyclists in each state. FL has built a system of roads that has led to HUGE wide expanses of roadway – horrible urban sprawl – In the “Dangerous By Design” study, the 10 worst cities in the U.S. for cycling and walking were ranked – the top FOUR were all in FL -
    1. Orlando-Kissimmee, FL
    2. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
    3. Jacksonville, FL
    4. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL

    That says a LOT about why FL’s “bike fatality/population” rate is 2-4x higher than anyone else’s…

    You can read about this study here –> http://t4america.org/resources/dangerousbydesign2011/

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