A new government report suggests that the number of bicycling deaths involving children have been nearly eliminated over the past 30 years. While safety features have played a major factor, researchers also note that a lot fewer children now ride bikes.
Increased use of bike helmets, the addition of bicycle paths in many areas and advances in medicine have almost certainly played a factor in the 92% reduction in cycling deaths among children in the U.S. since 1975, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). However, researchers acknowledge that the biggest factor is the widespread drop in the number of children riding bikes.
The study looked at national collision data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) collected from 1975 through 2012, identifying a total of 29,711 cycling deaths during that time period.
Overall, the rate of cycling deaths has dropped 44%, from a high of 955 per year in 1975 to 717 deaths in 2012. The drop in deaths and the increasing U.S. population means that bicycling deaths went from 0.41 deaths per 100,000 in 1975 to 0.23 per 100,000 in 2012.
The study found that the cycling death rate for children under the age of 15 fell 92%. But, researchers found in 2009 that the number of children actually riding bikes has plummeted. In addition, bike helmet use among children has tripled, from 3.8% in 1991 to 12.1% in 2013, according to data from the Youth Risk Behavior Study.
However, while there was an overall decline in deaths, the rate of cycling deaths among adults from ages 35 to 54 has tripled, from 0.11 per 100,000 to 0.31 per 100,000 as more adults take to biking to work. In addition, men were more likely to die in cycling deaths than women by a factor of six.
“This report underscores the importance of improving bicycle safety in the United States with the aim of preventing fatalities,” the researchers said. “In addition, a common perception that cycling is unsafe might contribute to low levels of bicycling, diminishing opportunities for physical activity, particularly among women and children.”