Study: Americans paying millions as the number of bicycle accidents increase

Bicycle injuries on the rise in the U.S. and costing millions in hospital bills.

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - A new study estimates the number of bicycle injuries has spiked in the United States. This comes as urban cities, like Grand Rapids, work to get more cyclists on the roads.

The reason for the effort is clear. Bicycling has huge benefits such as being environmentally friendly, a great form of physical activity and being much easier on the pockets than filling up a car.

However, according to the study published in the journal "Injury Prevention," the number of cycling injuries among adults increased by approximately 6,500 incidents each year. That is a 28 percent increase over 15 years.

Not surprisingly, the study found the more serious injuries involved collisions with motor vehicles.

"Street crashes represent an increasing proportion of total costs compared with non-street incidents," researchers wrote. "These crashes often involve motor vehicles, which increase velocity of crash impact and consequently injury severity."

According to the study, the accidents cost those involved about $789 million each year for the time period examined. Researchers said, "In 2013, we estimate adult bicycle injury costs totaled $24 billion. For reference, this is approximately double the medical and indirect costs associated with occupational illnesses in one year in the USA."

Interestingly, researchers also found one of the reasons for those growing costs is the number of cyclists 45 years old and older, nearly doubled the amount of miles they ride. The study concluded older adults were more likely to sustain severe injuries, and of course bear the costs associated with them.

Head injuries continue to be the biggest problem. Education campaigns, especially those that encourage wearing helmets, have been proven to help reduce the number of serious accidents.

It was not long ago Grand Rapids had the second highest crash rates in the state. However, last year the city launched its largest-ever bicycle safety education campaign. That campaign is credited with reducing the number of car versus bike accidents in the city and saving lives.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has useful information on bicycle safety on its website.

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