By Jason R. Markle
According to a new study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatalities increased in 2011 among bicyclists (8.7%), pedestrians (3.0%), motorcycle riders (2.1%) and large truck occupants (20%).
Although federal officials were encouraged by news that the overall number of people killed in motor vehicle accidents declined by 1.9%, many states, including Massachusetts, saw increases in traffic accident fatalities. In 2011, 347 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents in Massachusetts, an increase of 2.9%.
In addition, the NHTSA determined that 2.24 million people were injured in motor vehicle accidents in 2011, a decrease of 1%. The study found, however, that the decrease was statistically insignificant.
The NHTSA study also found that 32,367 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2011, with 21,253 of those deaths involving occupants in passenger vehicles. As if we needed more evidence that seatbelts save lives, the study found that among fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants, more than half (52%) were not wearing seatbelts.
Although federal officials have not yet analyzed the data, the increase in bicyclist fatalities is preliminarily being blamed on a growing population of bicyclists. This is due in large part to cities and towns across Massachusetts, and the United States in general, promoting bicycling as a sustainable and green mode of travel. Over the last decade, Massachusetts has placed a considerable focus on encouraging bicycling by creating safe and inviting conditions. For example, between 2002 and 2010, the city of Cambridge has seen its bicyclist population increase by 148%.
As Massachusetts drivers continue to ditch their SUVs for bicycles, drivers need to be more aware of their surroundings. A bicyclist was recently killed in collision with a tractor-trailer on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. He was the fifth bicylist killed in Boston in 2012.