Bikes and booze: Alcohol-related bicycle fatalities a significant problem, says safety group

bike and bottleBoozy bicyclists are an increasing problem, according to one highway safety group. The number of intoxicated bicycle rider fatalities is “trending upwards,” says the Governors Highway Safety Association. While overall motor vehicle fatalities increased just one percent between 2010 and 2012, the number of bicycle riders is up a whopping 16 percent.

According to a report by the GHSA, Spotlight on Highway Safety: Bicyclist Safety, changing demographics for bicycle riders is partly to blame. For example, adults 20 and older represented 84 percent of bicyclist fatalities in 2012, compared to only 21 percent in 1975. In 2012, 74 percent of the total number of bike rider was adult males.

It’s largely a city problem. The report notes that 69 percent of all bicycle fatalities in 2012 were in urban areas, compared with 50 percent in 1975, changes that correlate with an increase in bicycling commuters , up 62 percent jump since 2000, according to 2013 Census Bureau data.

According to the GHSA report:

“There are some bicycle fatality data that remain unchanged over the decades. Bicyclists killed are predominantly males (88 percent in 2012), and lack of helmet use and alcohol impairment continue to contribute to bicyclist deaths. In 2012, two-thirds or more of fatally injured bicyclists were not wearing helmets, and 28 percent of riders age 16 and older had blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of .08 percent or higher, compared with 33 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers.”

“What’s notable here,” said Dr. Allan Williams, author of the report, “is that the percentage of fatally injured bicyclists with high BACs has remained relatively constant since the early 1980s and did not mirror the sharp drop in alcohol-impaired driving that occurred among passenger vehicle drivers in the 1980s and early 1990s.”

Despite bicyclists representing two percent of overall motor vehicle-related fatalities, State highway safety agencies are giving bicyclist safety considerable attention, a proportion that has remained constant since 1975.  The image of an inebriated bicyclist may seem humorous, and the buzzed presents a danger primarily to (predominantly) himself, the advice to pocket the keys would seem to be just appropriate for the bike rider as for the automobile driver. Except for the cyclist, it’s the bicycle lock.