Cycling, walking among most dangerous travel modes

July 21, 2007 - 0:0

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) -- Motorcyclists and bicyclists who weave in and out of traffic may reach their destinations quicker, but passengers on buses are more likely to arrive safely, new study findings show.

Riding the bus appears to be even safer than walking, researchers report. However, most bus riders have to take some steps before they reach their destination -- and their risk of injury increases as they become pedestrians. ""Measures that prevent crashes and injuries for pedestrians and bicyclists are needed, especially given the recent focus on increasing physical activity through active travel,"" the researchers report in the American Journal of Epidemiology. ""The benefits of physical activity, including prevention of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions, must be balanced against the increased injury risks of pedestrians and bicyclists traveling on roadways,"" lead author Laurie F. Beck, of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and her colleagues write. Previous studies have primarily focused on the overall risk of injury from motor vehicle crashes, but not according to mode of travel, Beck and her team note. To investigate, they analyzed data from the 1999 to 2003 and the 2001 National Household Travel Survey. Overall, they found that there were 42,132 fatal traffic injuries and 3,048,000 nonfatal traffic injuries each year during the study period. Similar to previous research, most injuries -- fatal and nonfatal -- involved occupants of cars, vans, light trucks, and other types of passenger vehicles. Bus riders accounted for the fewest number of injuries. The most fatalities occurred among motorcyclists, the researchers report. In fact, motorcyclists were 58 times more likely to be fatally injured on a trip than were occupants of passenger vehicles. Bicyclists and pedestrians were 2.3 and 1.5 times more likely, respectively, to experience a fatal injury than those who rode in passenger vehicles. In other findings, individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 years old had the highest risk of fatal injury. Seniors 65 years or older also had a high risk of fatal injury, particularly when they traveled as pedestrians or on a bus, the researchers note. Males were also more likely to experience fatal injuries than were females, in most cases. ""Effective interventions are available and should be implemented to reduce the burden of traffic injuries in the United States,"" the researchers conclude