BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Deadly crashes between cars and bikes are happening in Maryland at an alarming rate. WJZ investigates this deadly trend and what’s behind it.

Mary Bubala talked with two cyclists who know firsthand the growing dangers on our roads.

In a split second, a casual bike ride on a beautiful day takes a deadly turn.

In December, cyclist and father of two, Tom Palermo, was hit and killed while riding in Roland Park.

Police said the driver, Baltimore’s first Episcopal female bishop, Heather Cook, was drunk and texting behind the wheel.

Palermo’s death sent shock waves across the community.

“Feels personal. It could have been any of us,” said one cyclist.

Palermo’s death hit two Maryland cyclists especially hard.

Katie Gore and Jimmy Mudgett told WJZ they are lucky to be alive after cars hit them.

“I probably shouldn’t be here, to be honest with you,” said Mudgett.

Last August, Jimmy was hit from behind when a car drifted into the shoulder along Route 31 in Frederick County. The speed limit is 55 miles-per-hour.

Bubala: “You could have died—that big of an impact.”

Mudgett: “I remember saying to myself—I just got hit by a car. At that point, I blacked out–I don’t remember anything. I woke up about 10 seconds later and I was really scared. I knew I broke my back. I knew my back was broken.”

Katie, another veteran cyclist, suffers permanent nerve damage from her accident two years ago in Baltimore County.

It is a constant reminder of one of the most terrifying moments in her life.

Bubala: “In a split second, your life changes.”

Gore: “I still have fear of stuff coming from that side. When I’m driving on the road, when I’m cycling—I never had that before.”

A WJZ investigation revealed cyclists in Maryland are more at risk than ever before.

The MVA reports nearly 750 crashes involving bikes each year.

And over the past five years, a 30 percent spike in the number of cyclists killed nationwide by distracted drivers.

“The safest thing for cyclists are more cyclists out on the road. It makes it so drivers are more accustomed to it and they are starting to look out more for cyclists,” said Emily Ranson from Bike Maryland.

Emily Ranson works for Bike Maryland, an organization committed to protecting cyclists.

“When you choose to drive a car, you need to also choose to be fully, 100 percent committed to the operation of that vehicle,” said Ranson.

Gore: “People are driving distracted. People think their car is their office.”

Bubala: “Distracted driving is a huge, huge issue for cyclists—phones, texting, everything… it’s scary. It can be really, really frightening.”

Gore: “It’s a privilege to drive—not a right. And people need to be patient.”

Bubala: “How do you make a change?”

Gore: “It is the awareness of drivers. They just have to slow down—on the cyclist side and motorist side. I don’t want any more white bikes in the city, but his death did send a message.”

Bishop Heather Cook is charged in Thomas Palermo’s death.

She remains free on bail while awaiting trial.

She is scheduled to be arraigned March 5.

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