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Study finds good news, bad news when it comes to bike accidents

There's a good chance that as you made your way out the door to work this past week, you stopped to grab your cell phone, attaché case and, of course, your car keys.

Interestingly enough, a recently published study in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report reveals that many of your co-workers likely did the exact same thing with one major exception: they grabbed bike helmets instead of car keys.

Indeed, the study, led by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, found that between 2000 and 2012, the number of people who commute to work by bicycle has jumped by an astounding 61 percent.

This was far from the most compelling aspect of the study, however, as it also made some rather eye-opening findings concerning bicycle accidents. Specifically, after examining comprehensive federal data from 1975 to 2012, the researchers discovered the following:

  • While roughly 30,000 cyclists lost their lives in bicycle accidents from 1975 to 2012, the number of these deadly crashes actually declined with each passing year from a high of 955 fatalities in 1975 to 717 fatalities in 2012.
  • While the number of fatal crashes among bicyclists between the ages of 35 to 54 almost tripled from 1975 to 2012, the number of fatal crashes among bicyclists younger than 15 fell by 92 percent over this same timeframe.
  • While each state had varying fatality rates, Vermont came in with the lowest overall rate and, somewhat shockingly, Florida came in with the highest overall rate.

In seeking an explanation for these findings, the researchers indicated that the spike in deaths among adult riders can largely be attributed to the growing popularity of bicycling over the years, while the drop in deaths among young riders can largely be attributed to greater helmet use and fewer kids riding bicycles.  

As for the overall drop in fatalities, the researchers credit everything from increased traffic enforcement and better road design to greater use of safety equipment and lower traffic volumes. They did caution, however, that more needs to be done to continue this trend of lower fatalities, such as the construction of dedicated bike lanes, and enhanced behavior training for cyclists and motorists alike.

Are you a long-time bicyclist? If so, have you seen the roads get safer over the years or do you still feel things are unsafe for bicyclists? 

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