Bicyclists | 2012

Two percent of motor vehicle crash deaths are bicyclists. In a majority of these deaths, the most serious injuries were to the head, highlighting the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet. Helmet use has been estimated to reduce head injury risk by 85 percent. Thompson, R.S.; Rivara, F.P.; and Thompson, D.C. 1989. A case-control study of the effectiveness of bicycle safety helmets. New England Journal of Medicine 320:1361-67. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have helmet laws applying to young bicyclists; none of these laws applies to all riders. Local ordinances in a few states require some or all bicyclists to wear helmets. A nationwide telephone survey estimated that state helmet use laws increase by 18 percent the probability that a rider will wear a helmet. Rodgers, G.B. 2002. Effects of state helmet laws on bicycle helmet use by children and adolescents. Injury Prevention 8:42-46. Helmets are important for riders of all ages, not just young bicyclists. Eighty-three percent of bicycle deaths are persons 20 and older. During the past few years, no more than 17 percent of fatally injured bicyclists were wearing helmets.

The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Trends

A total of 722 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2012, a 6 percent increase from 2011. Bicyclist deaths were down 28 percent since 1975.  Deaths among bicyclists younger than 20 have declined 84 percent since 1975, while deaths among bicyclists 20 and older have increased 193 percent.  The decline since 1975 among female bicyclists (51 percent) was larger than the decline among male bicyclists (23 percent). In every year since 1975, many more male than female bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles.  

Bicyclist deaths by age and gender, 1975-2012
Year<20 years ≥20 yearsTotal*
Males FemalesMales Females
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
1975 638 64 148 15 180 18 32 3 1,003 100
1976 568 62 130 14 180 20 33 4 914 100
1977 543 59 159 17 184 20 33 4 922 100
1978 531 60 140 16 182 20 37 4 892 100
1979 534 57 130 14 219 23 42 5 932 100
1980 511 53 132 14 268 28 49 5 965 100
1981 477 51 127 14 260 28 53 6 936 100
1982 428 50 91 11 288 33 52 6 864 100
1983 463 56 85 10 233 28 45 5 830 100
1984 405 48 98 12 268 32 53 6 838 100
1985 435 50 86 10 288 33 50 6 869 100
1986 459 49 85 9 322 35 54 6 929 100
1987 470 50 77 8 353 38 37 4 940 100
1988 415 46 75 8 353 39 52 6 901 100
1989 374 45 75 9 320 39 51 6 822 100
1990 319 37 56 7 403 47 65 8 853 100
1991 290 35 66 8 419 50 55 7 836 100
1992 290 40 51 7 335 47 39 5 717 100
1993 304 38 58 7 395 49 46 6 806 100
1994 293 37 61 8 387 49 48 6 796 100
1995 263 32 63 8 430 52 64 8 828 100
1996 246 32 52 7 402 53 55 7 761 100
1997 271 33 48 6 438 54 51 6 811 100
1998 235 31 41 5 421 56 58 8 757 100
1999 229 31 44 6 425 57 50 7 750 100
2000 201 29 30 4 410 60 46 7 689 100
2001 174 24 31 4 479 66 41 6 729 100
2002 157 24 32 5 426 64 41 6 663 100
2003 159 25 29 5 394 63 42 7 626 100
2004 144 20 44 6 478 66 52 7 722 100
2005 149 19 30 4 532 68 67 9 784 100
2006 131 17 23 3 539 70 71 9 769 100
2007 120 17 25 4 489 70 58 8 699 100
2008 111 16 24 3 509 71 68 9 716 100
2009 95 15 23 4 454 72 56 9 628 100
2010 81 13 18 3 452 73 66 11 621 100
2011 81 12 23 3 497 73 76 11 680 100
2012 100 14 17 2 527 73 72 10 722 100

Sixty-five percent of bicyclists killed in 2012 reportedly were not wearing helmets; helmet use was unknown for 18 percent. Information on helmet use became available in FARS in 1994.

Bicylist deaths by helmet use, 1994-2012
YearNo helmet useHelmet use Unknown Total
Number%Number%Number%Number%
1994 776 97 19 2 1 0 796 100
1995 783 95 34 4 11 1 828 100
1996 731 96 27 4 3 0 761 100
1997 785 97 23 3 3 0 811 100
1998 741 98 16 200 757 100
1999 698 93 42 6 10 1 750 100
2000 622 90 50 7 17 2 689 100
2001 616 84 60 8 53 7 729 100
2002 589 89 54 8 20 3 663 100
2003 535 85 58 9 33 5 626 100
2004 602 83 87 12 33 5 722 100
2005 676 86 77 10 31 4 784 100
2006 730 95 37 5 2 0 769 100
2007 646 92 50 7 3 0 699 100
2008 654 91 59 8 3 0 716 100
2009 573 91 52 8 3 0 628 100
2010 429 69 94 15 98 16 621 100
2011 450 66 100 15 130 19 680 100
2012 469 65 123 17 130 18 722 100

It is estimated that 28 percent of bicyclists age 20 and older who were killed in 2012 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent. Imputations for missing BACs were provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation's multiple imputation model beginning in 1982.

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured bicyclists age 20 and older with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent, 1982-2012
YearBicyclists killedEstimated bicyclists killed with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumberNumber%
1982 340 103 30
1983 278 84 30
1984 322 83 26
1985 338 78 23
1986 376 97 26
1987 390 114 29
1988 405 108 27
1989 371 102 28
1990 468 125 27
1991 474 143 30
1992 374 105 28
1993 441 128 29
1994 435 120 28
1995 494 159 32
1996 457 127 28
1997 489 139 28
1998 479 146 31
1999 475 159 33
2000 456 145 32
2001 520 161 31
2002 467 142 30
2003 436 134 31
2004 530 136 26
2005 599 172 29
2006 610 178 29
2007 547 152 28
2008 577 149 26
2009 510 147 29
2010 518 125 24
2011 574 148 26
2012 601 166 28

When they died

Bicyclist deaths in 2012 were highest during the months of July, August and October (11 percent, 10 percent and 10 percent, respectively) and lowest during the months of January, February and December (7 percent, 6 percent and 5 percent, respectively).

Distribution of bicyclist deaths by month, 2012
MonthDeaths%
January 51 7
February 41 6
March 56 8
April 63 9
May 63 9
June 61 8
July 83 11
August 73 10
September 67 9
October 74 10
November 57 8
December 33 5
Total 722 100

Bicyclist deaths in 2012 occurred most often during the hours from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (23 percent).

Distribution of bicyclist deaths by time of day, 2012
Time of dayDeaths%
Midnight - 3 a.m. 45 6
3 a.m. - 6 a.m. 38 5
6 a.m. - 9 a.m. 86 12
9 a.m. - noon 74 10
Noon - 3 p.m. 100 14
3 p.m. - 6 p.m. 97 13
6 p.m. - 9 p.m. 167 23
9 p.m. - midnight 115 16
Total* 722 100

Where they died

Many more bicyclists were killed in urban areas than in rural areas in 2012 (69 percent compared with 31 percent). In 1975, bicyclist deaths occurred equally in rural and urban areas.

Bicyclist deaths by land use, 1975-2012
YearUrban Rural Total*
Number%Number%Number%
1975 497 50 506 50 1,003 100
1976 470 51 444 49 914 100
1977 543 59 375 41 922 100
1978 532 60 350 39 892 100
1979 541 58 367 39 932 100
1980 563 58 390 40 965 100
1981 528 56 371 40 936 100
1982 490 57 364 42 864 100
1983 502 60 324 39 830 100
1984 491 59 346 41 838 100
1985 515 59 353 41 869 100
1986 567 61 361 39 929 100
1987 532 57 406 43 940 100
1988 525 58 374 42 901 100
1989 520 63 302 37 822 100
1990 523 61 330 39 853 100
1991 539 64 297 36 836 100
1992 448 62 265 37 717 100
1993 491 61 313 39 806 100
1994 477 60 318 40 796 100
1995 540 65 284 34 828 100
1996 494 65 265 35 761 100
1997 519 64 289 36 811 100
1998 479 63 277 37 757 100
1999 484 65 266 35 750 100
2000 422 61 251 36 689 100
2001 478 66 251 34 729 100
2002 450 68 211 32 663 100
2003 435 69 189 30 626 100
2004 477 66 242 34 722 100
2005 539 69 243 31 784 100
2006 555 72 209 27 769 100
2007 500 72 197 28 699 100
2008 491 69 222 31 716 100
2009 436 69 191 30 628 100
2010 444 71 174 28 621 100
2011 468 69 208 31 680 100
2012 497 69 223 31 722 100

Thirty-seven percent of bicyclist deaths in 2012 occurred at intersections.

Bicyclist deaths by junction type, 2012
Intersection Non-intersectionTotal*
Number%Number%Number%
266 37 456 63 722 100

Fifty-nine percent of bicyclist deaths in 2012 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways, and 36 percent occurred on minor roads. 

Bicyclist deaths by age group and road type, 2012
Road type< 20 years ≥20 yearsAll ages*
Number%Number%Number%
Interstates and freeways 3 3 26 4 29 4
Other major roads 62 53 363 60 427 59
Minor roads 52 44 206 34 260 36
All road types* 118 100 600 100 722 100

References