Inadequate Data Poses Challenge in Promoting Bicycle Safety

The New York Times recently ran a report on the mysterious state of bicycling safety in the United States. While there are statistics to clearly indicate the number of people killed in auto traffic accidents every year, the statistics that are related to bicycle collision fatalities and accidents, are often vague. For instance, many bicycle accidents continue to remain unreported, and therefore, the final tally is often not accurate.

It is therefore very difficult to understand whether bicycling is becoming safer for Americans, or more dangerous. There is a lack of adequate data to base any conclusions on. For example, the data is insufficient on critical questions, like the number of accidents that occur per mile driven. There is no relevant data for such questions.

There does not seem to be any distinction made between different types of bicycling. For instance, mountain biking traveling over rough terrain filled with obstacles is very different from recreational bicycling. However, official statistics don’t seem to differentiate between such types of accidents. There are also conflicting views of the strength of the bicycling population in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the annual fatality rate from bicycle accidents ranges from between .26 to.35 per 100,000 population. In 2010, there were 800 bicycle accident fatalities in the United States, comprising one-fortieth of all traffic accident fatalities.

The data doesn’t seem to indicate any trend in bicycle ownership and ridership numbers or in the number of fatal accidents occurring in the country. What is obvious however is that bicycle accident fatality rates are not dropping at the same rate as traffic accident deaths are.

New Brain Injury Research Uses Fruit Flies

Approximately 75% of all bicyclists who are involved in bicycle accidents every year suffer head injuries. Not every bicycle accident will result in a fatal injury. However, most of these accidents will result in brain injuries, that range all the way from a mild concussion that may not be life threatening, to a skull fracture or a traumatic brain injury with long-term consequences. Needless to say, brain injury research is a topic that almost every California bicycle accident lawyer is interested in.

A new study that has recently been announced makes use of an unusual subject to understand the dynamics of an injury. The research has been kicked off by a scientist at the University Of Wisconsin-Madison. He and fellow researchers have focused their efforts on understanding brain injury in humans, by focusing on the fruit fly.

The brain of the fruit fly is contained in a hard cuticle, and the researchers found that the basic mechanisms and operations of the fly’s brain and its effect on the nervous system, are very much the same as in mammals and human beings.

During the research, they found several similarities between brain injuries in human beings and flies. Just as with humans, few flies die immediately after suffering a head injury. They also found that after a period of treatment, the flies that received treatment showed many of the same long-term physical consequences of head injury as humans do. For instance, these flies were temporarily incapacitated soon after the head injury, and also showed other symptoms, like loss of coordination and inactivation of the immune response. These flies also suffered neurodegeneration of the brain, and were also likely to die earlier from their injuries.

The researchers hope that these similarities between flies and mammals will help them understand why brain injuries result in the kind of long-term consequences that they do.

Former Amazon Executive Killed in Bicycle Accident

A little reported news story that went largely unnoticed in the month of September was the death of a former star Amazon executive in a bicycle accident in California. Joy Covey was a former CFO at Amazon, and had a big role to play in the early start of days of the Internet retail giant. She died in September in an accident in San Mateo County.

50-year-old Cody was one of the main forces behind Amazon’s public run. Between 1996 and 1999, she served as not just the CFO, but also the VP of finance and administration at Amazon. During that same period time, she was also named one of the 50 most successful businesswomen in the United States by Fortune magazine.

She left the company voluntarily in 2000, and since then, had spent much of her time raising her eight-year-old son. She got herself a pilot’s license, and indulged in her love of extreme sports, including skiing, rock climbing and kite boarding. She was also very heavily involved in environmental causes.
That full and promising life came to an abrupt end in September, when she was struck by a van as she was cycling in San Mateo County. She was riding on a rural road, when she collided with a minivan.

According to the California Highway Patrol Officer who responded to the scene of the accident, she was wearing a helmet at the time, but her injuries are simply too severe for her to survive. It appears that the minivan turned right in front of the bicycle, and she was not able to stop in time. The bicycle was traveling downhill at the time of the accident.The minivan driver, a 22-year-old, has not yet been cited. However, investigations into the accident are still going on.