Studies Reveal Increase in Bicycle Crash Injuries and Fatalities

With summer in full swing, make sure to keep your eyes open for bicyclists! Taking an extra look can be the difference!

by: Eric Chaffin

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report in March 2017 indicating that bicycle accidents and related fatalities are on the rise. In 2015, the last year for which data was available, there were 818 bicyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes, which was an increase over the 729 killed in 2014. They added that between 2006 and 2015, the average age of cyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes increased from 41 to 45.

Now, a new study from researchers in California indicates that the rate of emergency department visits for bicycle accidents have increased “dramatically,” with medical costs from non-fatal bike crashes climbing by about $789 million annually.

New Study Shows Rising Medical Costs from Bicycle Injuries

The study, which was published in June 2017 in the journal Injury Prevention, indicated that crashes and fatalities have been steadily increasing over the past ten years. Researchers used non-fatal incidence data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System from 1997 – 2013, cost estimates from the Consumer Productive Safety Commission’s Injury Cost Model, and fatal incidence data from the National Vital Statistics System from 1999 – 2013 to reach their conclusions.

Their analysis showed that a total of about 3.8 million non-fatal bicycle injuries and nearly 9,900 deaths occurred during the study period. From 1999 to 2013, total estimated costs were $209 billion due to non-fatal bicycle injuries, and 28 billion due to fatal injuries. When comparing the costs over the span of the study period, they found that they increased by 137 percent for non-fatal injuries and 23 percent for fatal injuries. Non-fatal costs associated with injuries to riders 45 and older increased by 1.6 percent annually.

The researchers concluded that the overall costs associated with bicycle injuries are increasing, especially with riders 45 and older. In 2013, nearly 54 percent of the total costs of accidents were due to riders 45 and older, up from 26 percent in 1997.

Researchers suggested that the rise could be due to more commuting by bicycles and changes in motor vehicle traffic. “Many of these injuries are preventable with safer roads,” said senior author Benjamin N. Breyer. “As our cities become more dense and we look for ways to promote active commuting to benefit health and environment, we need to invest long term into our bicycling infrastructure.”

NHTSA Indicates Bicycling Fatalities on the Rise

According to the NHTSA, most bicycling accidents occur in urban areas and most fatalities occur at non-intersections. The following time periods had the highest percentage of fatalities:

  • 6:00 p.m. to 8:59 p.m.
  • 3:00 p.m. to 5:59 p.m.
  • 9:00 p.m. to 11:50 p.m.

They noted that the average age of cyclists killed in crashes was over 45 and that this age has steadily increased over the past ten years as older bikers take to the streets. Men, too, seem to be more at risk, as the majority of cyclists killed (85 percent) or injured (80 percent) were men. Most of the crashes involved only one vehicle, and the bicyclist was most often hit by the front of the vehicle.

The NHTSA also showed the number of fatalities by state and indicated the largest number occurred in Florida and California. They reminded all bicyclists to wear properly fitted helmets, as they are “the single most effective way to prevent head injury resulting from a bicycle crash.”

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