Do Bicycle “Stop-to-Yield” Laws Reduce Injuries?

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According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, laws that allow cyclists to yield at a stop sign and proceed when it is safe to go has lead to a decrease in crashes and injuries.

A new resource published by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, a division of the Department of Transportation, highlights the benefits of bicycle “stop-as-yield” laws, which allow cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs: first stopping, then proceeding through the intersection when safe. According to the NHTSA, these laws are correlated with decreased crashes and injuries involving cyclists in the handful of states where they have been passed.

As the NHTSA recounts, the first state to pass a bicycle stop-as-yield law was Idaho. Referred to as the “Idaho Stop Law,” the measure was passed in 1982. One year after it was implemented, “bicyclist injuries from traffic crashes declined by 14.5%.” Delaware passed a similar law in 2017, and in the 30 months following afterward “traffic crashes involving bicyclists at stop  sign intersections fell by 23%.” The other states that have passed stop-to-yield laws include Arkansas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, and Washington; in 2018, Colorado passed legislation permitting “local municipalities to adopt standard language on safe bicycle yielding at stops.” 

Stop-to-yield laws have more than just safety benefits, according to the NHTSA. By making streets safer for cyclists, they lead to the reduction of motor vehicle usage, which in turn leads to reduced congestion and emissions, or “healthier, quieter, cleaner, and safer streets.” The NHTSA states further that because the laws “decriminalize a riding behavior,” they might encourage wider adoption of cycling. This leads to an effect called “Safety in Numbers,” or SIN, wherein the increase in cyclists on the road makes them more visible to motor vehicle operators, who then take greater car as they drive, making the roads even safer for cyclists. One study cited by the NHTSA indicated that “removing stops may reduce injury risk by half through SIN alone.”

More information on the safety and other benefits of bicycle “stop-as-yield” laws is available via the NHTSA, as well as a Streetsblog analysis. 

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