Report on Europe-wide Bicyclist Injuries in Traffic Accidents, with a Focus on Helmet Usage
Although the amount and quality of bicycle-related accident data varies greatly per country, Working Group 1 was able to draw a number of important conclusions. Using DaCoTa Fact Sheets to assemble data up to and including 2012, it appears that cyclists represent about 5% of all fatalities in IRTAD countries, and the trend has been increasing since 2010. In the 20 EU countries covered by the data, bicycle fatalities made up about 6.8% of the total road accident fatalities reported.
In general, cyclist fatalities decreased between 2001 and 2010, but statistics vary greatly from country to country. For example, the fatality rate for cyclists in Ireland is about one per every one million inhabitants, while in the Netherlands, Romania and Hungary, about eight out of every one million inhabitants dies in a bicycle accident. In Denmark, an estimated 75% of cyclist fatalities occur in urban areas, while in Spain, only 26% of fatalities take place in urban settings. Obviously, exposure (time spent bicycling or distance covered by the bicycle) plays a key role in this. Working Group 2 quantified these factors for the first time for many countries.
The severity of non-fatal injuries is also difficult to pinpoint, as different countries have different definitions of what constitutes a ‘slight’ or ‘severe’ injury. In addition, the usage of helmets also varies greatly per country, with 3% of cyclists using them in Italy, as compared to more than 50% in Norway. The highest helmet usage rates can typically be found amongst children, as several countries have mandatory helmet usage laws in place for young bicyclists. However, other countries have stated that they do not intend to enact helmet mandates, because doing so might lead to a reduction in cycling activities.
Bicycling and alcohol consumption
An in-depth study in Germany measured the effect that alcohol consumption can have on both the perception and outcome of bicycle accidents. Alcohol has been tied directly to both an increase in cyclists’ fault for traffic accidents, and the decrease in helmet usage rates. Cyclists who had consumed alcohol were less likely to wear a helmet. Cyclists who were not deemed responsible for an accident were also less likely to have consumed alcohol than those who were held partially responsible for accidents. Overall, the greatest risk of head injury did not occur in collisions with other vehicles, but rather in accidents related to falls.
Accidents among e-bikers in Switzerland
Accident investigation of the users of electronic bicycles (e-bikes) in Switzerland shows that e-bikers who were involved in accidents tended to be older than most bicyclists involved in accidents. The investigation also indicates that e-bikers tended to be involved in accidents that did not involve collision with another vehicle. It was also concluded that both bicyclists and riders of e-bikes over the age of 40 are at a higher risks of sustaining severe injuries in an accident than bicyclists and e-bikers aged 39 and younger.