Children’s bicycle death rates lower than adults

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Bicycle safety

What’s behind the statistics?

Did you know that the death rate of bicyclists killed on the roads is twice that of people who die in vehicles? And that’s despite the fact that bicyclists make up only 1 percent of all road trips in the U.S.

Oddly enough, adults make up the greater number of these deaths. Since 1975, the death rate of children cyclists under age 15 has dropped 92 percent while the adult death rate increased over the same period. The total death rate of cyclists between 1975 and 2012 dropped by 44 percent – a statistic totally driven by fewer child deaths.

These facts could be due to fewer children riding bikes to school than they once did. Today, roughly 13 percent of children ride a bike or walk to school. That’s a precipitous drop from the 48 percent who walked or rode in 1969. Kids today also spend less time participating in outdoor aBicycle death ratectivities like bike riding, preferring to play video games and the company of their cell phones and tablets. Helmet requirements for children may also play a role in the decreased deaths. The number of adults commuting by bicycle, however, has risen since 1975, which could factor into the rise in adult deaths.

The states with the highest bicycle death rates are Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, and California. It’s possible that the increasing popularity in recreational and commuter cycling is an element in the increased death rate. However, Portland, Ore., Austin, and Madison, Wis., are cycle-friendly cities that haven’t experienced an increase in road deaths.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 29,711 cyclist deaths in a period of 38 years. These are cycling fatalities that take place on public roads or that involve a motor vehicle. These NHTSA statistics don’t account for changes in the numbers of people who ride bikes, how often they ride, or how far they ride.

Source: John Tozzi, “Kids’ Biking Deaths Declined but Adults Deaths Rise,” 14 Aug. 2015.

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