Bicyclist crashes with cars and SUVs: injury severity and risk factors

Monfort, Samuel S. / Mueller, Becky C.
Traffic Injury Prevention (TIP)
June 2023

Objective: The popularity of bicycle travel has increased in recent years alongside a comparable increase in the risk of injury or death for those cyclists. The current study was conducted to investigate the differences in injury outcomes between bicyclists struck by SUVs and those struck by cars and to uncover the mechanisms behind injury patterns that have been observed in past research.
Methods: We analyzed 71 single-vehicle crashes from the Vulnerable Road User Injury Prevention Alliance pedestrian crash database, focusing on crashes involving an SUV or car. Each crash from this database included an in-depth analysis of police reports, bicyclist medical records, crash reconstructions, and injury attribution by a panel of experts.
Results: Bicyclist injuries from crashes with SUVs were more severe than those from crashes with cars, particularly with respect to head injuries. The greater injury severity associated with SUVs was related to these vehicles' tendency to produce injuries from ground contact or from vehicle components near the ground. In contrast, cars were much less likely to produce ground injuries and instead tended to distribute less severe injuries across multiple vehicle components.
Conclusions: The pattern of results suggest that the size and shape of SUV front ends are responsible for the differences in bicyclist injury outcomes. In particular, we found that SUV crashes inflicted more severe head injuries compared with car crashes and that SUVs were disproportionately likely to throw bicyclists to the ground and run them over.

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