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If you bike drunk you're more likely to die. If you drive drunk you're more likely to kill. On balance, if someone is going to either drive or bike while drunk, I'm gonna have to say it's better for society for them to bike.

What is the rate of fatalities associated with drunk biking versus drunk driving? How does it compare to driving fatality rates 40 years ago, before legal and social changes discouraged DUI.

On the bright side, Dr Gridlock nailed it, mentioning only the ridership increase in the lede.

SJE, I don't know what you mean by "the rate of fatalities associated with drunk biking". What are the numerator and denominator you're looking for?

Apologies for not having read the source material, but is there any speculation on the cause of the overall downward trend in fatalities? Presumably non-fatal accidents are steady or increasing.

I think there are several theories out there.

1. Drunk driving is down
2. Fewer kids are biking (probably the main one)
3. Design of better facilities for cyclists
4. Bike lights are much cheaper and better.
5. Increased helmet use (at least since 1975)

Non fatal injuries have dropped from an estimated 75,000 in 1988 to a low of 41000 in 2004 and back up to an average of 50,000 over the years 2007-2012.

Indeed, probably no single cause.

Sorry Washcycle. It is 28% for cycling, which is lower than drivers. I wonder how many automotive deaths were linked to drinking 40 years ago.

I've been a "driver" for sixty years - six of them exclusively on a bike, the rest in cars and trucks, as well as the bike.

One factor that is sadly lacking in the study is any indication of the experience of the cyclist.
I can recall, as a young rider, being very concerned about the possibility of a fall, and hitting my head. The first ten years of cycling taught me that this was, really, very low - at least as long as I did not take unnecessary risks.
A helmet will reduce/eliminate the severity of a concussion - it will NOT "save lives", and any argument based on that is a false one.
The other comment is on "risk". What passes for "risky" behavior in a less experienced rider may well be merely calculated action. As I've grown in experience, I've discovered that what I had thought dangerous was not quite so - if I approached it correctly, knew when it would or would not be dangerous, and so forth - so what the inexperienced, or the non-cyclist may see as "risky" proves to be as reasonably safe as many things that same person would do in a car.
Experience can be a big factor in a rider's safety.

My personal reading on helmets goes something like this:

They don't really do anything for concussions. For slow speed crashes they can help to mitigate a head strike and are particularly good at preventing skull fractures. Because kids are more often in slow speed crashes they're particularly good for them. When being hit by a car they probably save some lives, but not as many as boosters seem to indicate. Often a victim has more than just a head injury.

Let's keep those numbers trending down!

As I see it, the list of mitigating factors above, would act on the accident or injury rate, not fatalities, per se, and I suspect it has more to do with the increasing use of aggressive interventions for severe head injury, e.g. intracranial pressure monitoring.

Also, re: helmets, I don't think there is evidence that they mitigate concussion significantly, but, as washcycle writes, prevent skull fractures. Skull fractures are obviously not a good thing in and of themselves, but they are associated with epidural hemorrhage, due to tearing of arteries in the damaged tissues. These are high-pressure bleeds, which kill rapidly after the famous "lucid interval". Sorry for the technical banter.

Helmets can do some good in some situations, but they are not a panacea and I think they serve as a red herring when discussing cyclist safety, diverting attention from more important issues.

Since they can actually cause or worsen injuries in some limited cases--added torsional forces and the ability to catch on things that otherwise would not be caught--I'd be upset if they were mandated. It would cause me to break the law, in fact. As in most things, I support freedom of choice for things that don't harm others.

I wear mine when mountain biking and in the winter or rainy conditions. I have wrecked countless times over 20+ years of mountain biking and have never once hit my head. This is, of course, anecdotal.

On the other hand, I could also cite my girlfriend, who wrecked and hit her head while wearing a helmet road biking and received a concussion and months of headaches. She thinks the helmet maybe saved her, but she doesn't remember a single thing about the accident or the half hour that followed, so who knows.

Smedley, I think if there are fewer accidents (or crashes for the purists out there) then there are probably fewer injuries and fatalities.

Right. I should have said, "assuming the crash rate has been constant," which I thought was the case.

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