Official statistics underestimate cycling accidents, figures suggest

There is a disconnect between data on cycling injuries compiled by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and those recorded at a busy hospital emergency department, it has emerged.

A study published in the latest edition of the Irish Medical Journal examined cycling-related injuries managed by the emergency department at St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin. There were 534 patients with a cycling-related injury seen at the hospital over a 12-month period in 2014.

Seven out of 10 patients (71%) were male, and the average age was 36 years. Twenty-two patients (4%) were aged between 14 and 18 years, and 21 over the age of 65. There were 79 patients (14.8%) who came to the hospital following a collision with a car or other vehicle. 42 (8%) had collided with a pedestrian while 17 (3%) had collided with another cyclist.

Forty patients had to be admitted to hospital following their injuries, with six spending time in intensive care. There were 83 patients (15%) who sustained head injuries. Two cyclists died during the 12-month period.

The highest number of presentations was in September, at 72 (13%). A total of 147 (27%) presented at a weekend. And the most common day of attendance was Monday (18%).

The study’s lead author, Dr James Foley, said the RSA relied on Garda reports only, and that combining hospital statistics would be a more accurate barometer.

An emergency medicine trainee at St Vincent’s, Dr Foley said international studies showed about 20% of cycling accidents involve collisions with a motor vehicle.

The most up-to-date statistics from the RSA, for 2012, show a total of 630 cyclists injured. 83% of these collisions involve a motor vehicle — much higher than the international average. This may be as a result of using garda reports alone to capture cycling collision statistics.

“From our study in 2014,” Dr Foley said, “there were 534 injuries in just one hospital. So, if we were to include cycling injuries from all of the hospitals in the country, the number would be quite substantial.”

He said the hospital did not want to discourage people from cycling, but the study did reveal there are potentially more cycling injuries than currently reported, and perhaps cycling safety needs a review.

“There are a lot of cycling injuries that should be looked at further to see how they could be prevented and hospital EDs could play a leading role in this area.”

He said France had a trauma registry that included police reports and hospital data, not just for cyclists but all road users: “By putting the data together, they estimate they detect up to 80% of injuries.”


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