Traffic Safety Facts: Bicyclists and Other Cyclists

[Update: the 2013 bicyclist fact sheet was released May(?) of 2015]

Each year, the USDOT, NHTSA (United States Dept of Transportation / National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) issues a report called Traffic Safety Facts: Bicyclists and Other Cyclists xxxx. The report comes out about 18 months after the close of the calendar year under review.

I wonder if this / this data would be more useful if it were on a simple spreadsheet — I extracted one of the tables last year and it was a P.I.T.A.

NHTSA publications currently lists an edition of this report for the year 2014, all the way back to 1993:

They tend to list the most recent 10-year period, so e.g. 2011 lists 2002-2011 data

One of the things tracked here is a 50 state, state-by-state breakdown; which otherwise is pretty hard to find (individual states are easily found here). As a by-product of that stat, the state’s fatality rate per population is listed, see  arizona-has-the-highest-cycling-fatality-rate? for some comments on that particular statistic. They also give some standard breakdowns as to age, gender, urban/rural, month of the year, etc. In the 2014 edition, Tucson and Phoenix were singled out as… “The large cities with the highest pedalcyclist fatality rates were both in Arizona: Tucson (11.36 pedalcyclist fatalities per 1,000,000 people) and Phoenix (7.16 pedalcyclist fatalities per 1,000,000 people),” p. 8. Ouch. But without exposure data, this is hardly useful information.

A stat they have just started publishing (since 2009) each year is the “(pedalcyclist) percent of overall fatalities” — reports from before 2009  listed a 10 year line-graph of total pedalcyclist fatals. The percentage seems better and more relevant.

Disturbing trend?

To (cherry?) pick one datapoint; the decrease in traffic fatalities (2010, I think i was referring to) compared to 2007 has been dramatic, a 20% decline in only 3 years! There is much speculation as to why, e.g. the economic recession in the US is thought to play a large role, vehicle improvements continue to advance; more cars have airbags; large SUV rollovers are killing fewer of their own occupants due to Electronic Stability Control (see suvs-becoming-less-deadly).  These engineering improvements allow motorists to “crash safe”.

Unfortunately if you unpack the numbers into broad categories, the NHTSHA breaks them down into three (see Table 2 of Traffic Safety Facts 2010, reproduced in the comment below):

  • Motor Vehicle Occupants: i.e. drivers and passengers of enclosed vehicles
  • Motorcyclists
  • Non-vehicle Occupants: includes bicyclists, but is predominantly pedestrians

The differences are rather stark; while MV occupants have enjoyed a 24% decrease in fatalities , Non-vehicle occupants have seen only a 9% decline.

There could be a lot of reasons for this disparity… perhaps for the same reasons that bad economic conditions are having the effect of reducing the number of MV occupant fatalities , they are also perhaps causing more people to bike/walk.

I am not aware of anyone looking at this, though it seems like a big deal.

Stats for injuries can also be derived from the same table of information (table 2 of the general 2010 TSF); it shows a continuation of the disturbing trend but interestingly it also shows a disparity between injury rates vs. fatality rates. For injuries, MV occupants are down 10%, while Non-occupant injuries are UP 5%. Note this is still the same “swing” of 15 percentage points. But it does also beg the question of why fatalities are falling faster than injuries. Better trauma care?

Various standard measures of exposure listed in Table 1 of TSF are Resident Poulation, Number of Licensed Drivers, Number of Registerd MVs, Vehicle Miles Traveled have all, as expected, not changed much in the course of 3 years. The former former 3 have all increased slightly, while VMT decreased slightly (+3, +2, +1, -2 % respectively). Fatalities per VMT is perhaps the most closely-watched measure of traffic safety; and is currently at a historic low of 1.11 Fatals per 100Million VMT.

None of these exposures really tells us what might be happening differently with non-occupants; so we’re left to speculate/hypothesis — e.g. perhaps due to the bad economy, the decrease in mile traveled by MV was partially replaced by more bicycle or walking trips. And since there are proportiately more MV trips/miles traveled compared to bikeing/walking, a small number of displaced miles has the effect of increasing bike/walk exposure markedly.

Traffic Safety Facts Annual Reports

There’s also a much longer document put out each year called the Traffic Safety Facts FARS/GES Annual Report; so the library page has a link to search for just TSF FARS/GES annual reports. E.g. the most recent one available as of this writing is 2012, 812032.pdf (2011 is 811754AR.pdf) and runs about 200 pages. One guesses this contains *all* the data presented in the specialty TSFs, e.g. motorcyclists, bicyclists, speeding, alcohol, etc.

3 thoughts on “Traffic Safety Facts: Bicyclists and Other Cyclists”

  1. http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811630.pdf Table 2. of Traffic Safety Facts 2010
    (this is illegible when viewed on the web; the nums are tab separated but they don’t show up unless viewed in plain text)

    										
    	Motor Vehicle Occupants					Non Occupants				
    Year	pass	Light   Larg     bus     unk	tot 	MC	ped	cycl	unk	total   total
            cars    truck   truck                   MV occ                                  nonocc
    2001	20320	11723	708	34	458	33243	3197	4901	732	123	5756	42196
    2002	20569	12274	689	45	528	34105	3270	4851	665	114	5630	43005
    2003	19725	12546	726	41	589	33627	3714	4774	629	140	5543	42884
    2004	19192	12674	766	42	602	33276	4028	4675	727	130	5532	42836
    2005	18512	13037	804	58	659	33070	4576	4892	786	186	5864	43510
    2006	17925	12761	805	27	601	32119	4837	4795	772	185	5752	42708
    2007	16614	12458	805	36	614	30527	5174	4699	701	158	5558	41259
    2008	14646	10816	682	67	580	26791	5312	4414	718	188	5320	37423
    2009	13135	10312	499	26	554	24526	4469	4109	628	151	4888	33883
    2010	12435	9752	529	44	543	23303	4502	4280	618	182	5080	32885
    ...
    07-10   25%	22%	34%	-22%	12%	24%	13%	9%	12%	-15%	9%	20%
    decr
    

    Note to self; this data is in spreadsheet data\web\bikelaw\carlaw\AZstats.xls (on the first sheet)

  2. ug. AZ is probably WORSE than national averages:

    “My calculations of AZ data (2007 and 2010), based on Crash Facts, it’s 34.2% reduction for MV occupants and 2.2% reduction for pedestrians and bicyclists. But again, as we’ve noted before, we don’t know about exposure.”

    I don’t have the statistical firepower to try and gather other state’s data — but an arithmetic observation is if AZ is worse than average, there must be places that are better than average. What are those places, and why might they differ from what we’re experiencing here in AZ?

  3. Below is RAW percentage of bicyclist traffic fatalities as a precentage of total traffic fatalities:

    NATIONAL DATA — 10 yr, 2001 to 2010
    here is the data table from TSF; Bicyclists and other cyclists 2010 (issues June 2012; so 2011 TSF isn’t out yet)
    2001 42196 732 1.73%
    2002 43005 665 1.55%
    2003 42884 629 1.47%
    2004 42836 727 1.70%
    2005 43510 786 1.81%
    2006 42708 772 1.81%
    2007 41259 701 1.70%
    2008 37423 718 1.92%
    2009 33883 628 1.85%
    2010 32885 618 1.88%
    Ten year average → 1.73%

    AZ STATEWIDE; same 10 years as above…
    AZ tot AZ cycl
    1057 29 2.74%
    1132 15 1.33%
    1118 15 1.34%
    1151 27 2.35%
    1179 36 3.05%
    1288 29 2.25%
    1066 21 1.97%
    938 19 2.03%
    806 25 3.10%
    762 19 2.49%
    Ten year average → 2.24%

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