Every year since 1993 NHTSA has published a series short papers outlining statistics for a variety of crashes.  These include

–  Bicycles

– Motorcycles

– Pedestrians

– Alcohol issues

– Large Trucks

– School Transportation

– Young Drivers

and more…. you cand find these papers and read them yourself here.

These “Traffic Safety Facts” put some numbers out there for folks to think about.  For example, the 2008 Data indicates that

– 53,000 cyclists have died in traffic crashes in the US since 1932.

– 332 cyclists died in 1932, which accounted for 1.3% of all traffic deaths that year.

– 716 died in 2008 – or roughly 2% of all traffic fatalities.

– 1003 died in 1975 – the worst year ever for bicycling fatalities.

– The 716 fatalities in 2008 was 6% LOWER than the 760 who died in 2007 and a almost THIRTY PERCENT less than the 1003 who died in 1975.

DRUNK CYCLING continues to be a problem, much to my amazement.  26% of the 716 cyclists killed in 2008 had blood alcohol levels at 0.08% or higher, making them legally “intoxicated” for DUI purposes.

What does this mean?

Smashed Bike Wheel - smaller

To me, it means that cyclng is SAFER THAN EVER. Bikes are outselling cars, but bike fatalities are going DOWN.  Further, the alcohol component, while baffling, tells me that serious cyclists are safer than ever.  No serious cyclist gets drunk and goes out for a ride.  My unresearched, seat-of-the-pants, before breakfast suspicion is that a close look at those drunk cyclist deaths would reveal that some/many of the drunk cyclists were once drunk MOTORISTS who changed their vehicle of choice, but not their habit of drinking and driving.

So, GO RIDE A BIKE folks… it’s safer today than ever before!

Steve Magas

The Bike Lawyer

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  • Ross Hirsch says:

    Thanks for putting this analysis out there. Nice job. Twittered it. Not as surprised as you are re the drunk cycling numbers. While the vast majority of cyclists I see don’t parttake while riding, I’ve seen waaaay too many people partaking in alcoholic beverages on many of the night rides here in LA that I often go on, i.e., Critical Mass, Midnight Ridazz. (My participation is in the rides, not the parttaking, just to be clear.) While riding with a large group may give a relative feeling of safety, what happens when the ride is over? They’ve then likely got to bike at least several miles on city streets home, to friend’s couch, whatever. Wouldn’t want to do that drunk. Thanks again.

  • Steve Magas says:

    Yea, the drunk cycling thing has boggled me for years. Not sure if it is group riding, parties or ex DUI-ers from 4 wheeled vehicles. They seem to be well represented every single year in bicycle deaths. Of course, motorcycle statistics are a “whole nother thang” – 50% of those are self inflicted – single vehicle crashes – often a motorcyclist coming home at night, after a couple drinks, who is too far into the curve before he notices that the road has shifted to the left or right!

  • Jaz says:

    Unfortunately, your theories are wrong. The drunken bicyclist are good bikers. Probably most of them. Some may come from parties, work, or just riding. I’ve lost a few people to drunkeness. Doubtful that they may drive at all. When I was younger, I rode drunk once and was immediately against it. I didn’t do it for many years. Been drunk once or twice though. In NY it’s not safer. At least it doesn’t feel like it. 20 years riding, I’ve seen a little.

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