Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fatality Facts 2008. Oh happy day.

Stop.
Before you read this post, open this link on another page or tab:
Fatality Facts 2008: Bicycles
Its grim reading no doubt, which makes it irresistible to the Evil Cyclist (moth to a flame)

First of all, we know that people die on bikes. Old people, young people. Apparently many more men than women and, as a pleasant surprise, quite a few drunks. Even good people and careful cyclists like Bruce Rosar.

So, back to the Insurance Institute web page, and my impending mockery thereof.

First let me spoil any tension by providing a conclusion first: they omit data that would be critical to formulating real judgment. Shocking.

Example: Bicycle deaths by gender. According to their chart, men account for ~85% of all bike deaths.
Horrifying Conclusion: Men must be awful cyclists, or be the actual target of homicidal drivers ( I personally blame George Bush, don't you?).

In reality, this statistic means NOTHING unless we know the actual proportion of men to women cyclist AND the number of miles they ride AND we know where they ride, etc. It is a complete apples to oranges comparison. Might as well compare men's deaths by cycling to squirrels deaths from crossing the road. I suspect what it really means is that men ride a lot more than women, which jibes with what I see on the roads every day. Yes, I understand my anecdotal evidence is not scientific, but its better than what they provide.

Next: "Ninety-one percent of bicyclists killed in 2008 reportedly weren't wearing helmets."

Bicyclist deaths by helmet use, 1998-2008
Year No helmet use Helmet use Total*
Num % Num % Num
1998 741 98 16 2 757
1999 698 93 42 6 750
2000 622 90 50 7 689
2001 616 84 60 8 729
2002 589 89 54 8 663
2003 535 85 58 9 626
2004 602 83 87 12 722
2005 676 86 77 10 784
2006 730 95 37 5 769
2007 646 92 50 7 699
2008 653 91 58 8 714

Well, this is comforting. I MUST draw the conclusion that since I wear a helmet, I am about 9 times less likely to die in a crash. Whew!

WRONG.

Without knowing how many people ride without helmet and how many miles they ride, that number is again useless. For example, if only 10% of riders wear helmets, and everything else is equal ( like the number of miles ridden annually) it turns out that I am JUST AS LIKELY to die wearing a helmet as not. Now I don't think that is the actually case, and I do think helmets add significant protection ( from first hand/head experience) thus I wear one, but statistics in a vacuum are prone to gross mis-interpretation. Mainly by politicians and lawyers, by the way.

In a way that I am not really proud of, this brought a smile to my face:
"Twenty-six percent of bicyclists age 16 and older killed in 2008 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent."

Amusing for several reasons:
1. I have ridden drunk. Not a happy ending. End result; Scabs stuck to my pillow/sheets. Combined with hangover, a very bad way to wake up. In my defense I was younger, stupider and indestructible.
2. Realistically, only a small percentage of miles per year and riders can be drunk on a bike. Since the statistics only provide information on those actually killed, I don't know how many, but it has to be small. That means you are much, much, much more likely to be killed when drunk on a bike. No surprise. God may protect fools and drunks, but Darwin hates 'em.
3. Drunk cyclists are funny, and only do minor damage to large SUV's and German sports cars.

"Bicyclist deaths in 2008 occurred most often during the months of August-October."
Really? So more people die during the summer when more people are riding? Inconceivable. How about correlating that to the total number of miles ridden in each month?

This one is surprising and bothers me personally:

Bicyclist deaths per million people by age and gender, 2008

Bicyclist deaths per million people by age and gender, 2008

1. I'm right in the 40-45 year old sweet spot for the upswing in death. Whats killing all the middle age male cyclists? I suspect its mainly embarrassment about how they look in spandex.
2. Really surprised that the 16-25 year old rate is so low. Those are the reckless years, or they were for me. I suspect its because that's when all the guys get cars, and they are busy killing themselves in cars and don't have time to die on a bike...but since we don't now how may cyclists there are in those age ranges and how many miles they actually ride, we'll never know. What a sad, tragic mystery. Call Scooby-Doo.

The remaining statistics are less interesting to me, but just as useless. more people die in cities than in rural areas. Really? Which areas has considerably more bike riders?

For those of you that are worried about my mortality (which should be all of you), statistically speaking, it is unlikely that bicycling will kill me. Among the Grim Reaper's much more likely choices are:
-Angry Wife
-Angry Boss
-Angry Co-Worker
-Insanely fast German sports car
-Boredom
-Flatulence

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,"
J.R.R. Tolkien
-Evil C.

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Thank you for your comments, you simpering fool. Now, await your destiny. Or have a cocktail, something fruity, maybe with one of those little umbrellas.