Too many cyclists are riding under the influence and causing accidents.
According to recent data, the number of cyclists that have crashed while being under the influence is racking up. Thousands of bicycle crashes within a single year study indicated an influx of bikers were high at the time of impact.
The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System collects information on injury-related visits from roughly 5,000 emergency rooms in the United States. Bart Hammig and partner Robert Davis of the Public Health Department used these records from 2019-2020. They isolated those receiving treatment for bicycle injuries related to psychoactive drug use. Out of 480,286 bicycle injuries that year, 11,314 of them had direct ties to drug use. The most common drugs used by injured bikers were methamphetamine, marijuana, and opioids (such as heroin or fentanyl). Of the 11,314 cyclists, methamphetamine was most commonly used at 36.4%. Marijuana followed with 30.7% and opioids with 18.5%. The patients’ ages ranged from 25 to 44. 70% of those were non-Hispanic White. 86.4% of the patients were male.
Many different injuries were recorded. However, fractures at 22.4% and internal organ injuries at 19.1% were the most common. Less common injuries found, such as concussions at 8% and poisoning at 1% were also recorded. The most recurring body sites for injury were head and neck at 36.5%. Additionally, alcohol was involved in 22.3% of the injuries recorded. Meaning the biker had not only used a psychoactive substance but alcohol as well. A third of these patients were admitted to the hospital for more serious treatment.
Circumstances surrounding each incident made it unlikely the cyclists were riding for recreational purposes. Circumstances such as homelessness, license revocation, and financial instability, all of which restrict transportation were proposed. Earlier research found those involved in alcohol-related bicycle injuries were more likely to have had prior DUIs, resulting in license revocation. This led them to question if lack of transportation was a common theme among the cyclists involved in the crashes. While more research is still needed to determine the underlying circumstances surrounding the crashes; it is currently unknown what socioeconomic factors are directly involved. Hammig suggests the research, “may help to influence and promote policies and programs in communities to address transportation issues that promote public health, such as improved access to public transportation.”
Although this research may be helpful to some, total prevention of drug-related crashes will be difficult. Even with the promotion of helmet use and the creation of bicycle lanes, it is unknown what steps are needed to eradicate this issue, or if eradication is even possible. Hammig suggests expanding the study to a national level may provide more answers for analysts.
“Further surveillance efforts and research are needed to identify which drugs may pose an increased injury risk, circumstances surrounding those injuries, and identification of possible mitigation and prevention efforts,” Hammig said. While there is plenty of research into alcohol-related crashes, there is hardly any research involving bicycle injuries in relation to psychoactive drugs. Prevention of these crashes is deeply needed. However, those efforts will most likely prove to be futile until more research and education are produced.