One in five people who died in bicycle accidents in New York City had alcohol present in their bodies at the time of their fatal crash, the New York Times reported April 9.
Researchers who reviewed autopsy reports found that 21 percent of New York City bicyclists who died within three hours of their accidents had alcohol in their system. The researchers drew on data from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene regarding bicycling accidents in the city between 1996 and 2005.
Six percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes with bicycles were under the influence of alcohol.
Researcher Catherine Stayton, director of the health department's injury epidemiology unit, warned that the data was limited due to how the body metabolizes alcohol. Of 225 bicycle fatalities, only 176 victims were tested for alcohol, and of these, only 84 cases involved bicyclists who died within three hours. Tests for alcohol conducted more than three hours after the crash were not considered valid.
“It's a no-brainer to be sober when you ride in New York City,” said Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for Transportation Alternatives, a transit advocacy group. “Being alert and conscious of everyone else on the road is the best protection a bicyclist has, and biking while impaired makes our already dangerous streets an even greater risk.”
The data also showed that only 3 percent of bicyclists who died were wearing helmets, and that 92 percent of deaths involved a moving motor vehicle ; only one of the latter accidents took place in a bicycle lane.
The study was published April 2, 2009 in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention.