A comparative analysis of alcohol in fatal and nonfatal bicycling injuries

Guohua Li, Susan P. Baker, Sophia Sterling, John E. Smialek, Patricia C. Dischinger, Carl A. Soderstrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bicycling is the leading cause of recreational injury, resulting in more than half a million emergency department visits and about 900 deaths each year in the United States. Previous research on bicycling injury was conducted predominantly in children and focused on the effectiveness of safety helmets. Few studies have examined the role of alcohol in bicycling injuries. This study examined the magnitude of and factors related to alcohol involvement in fatal and nonfatal bicycling injuries, and tested the hypothesis that alcohol intoxication is associated with significantly increased likelihood of fatality given a serious bicycling injury. Medical examiner data on all fatally injured bicyclists aged 10 years or older from 1987 to 1994 in Maryland (fatal cases, n = 63) were compared with trauma registry data on all injured bicyclists who were treated at a regional trauma canter during the same time period (nonfatal cases, n = 253) on variables related to blood alcohol concentrations (BACs), demographic characteristics, and injury circumstances. The fatal cases were more likely than the nonfatal cases to have positive BACs (30% vs. 16%, p < 0.01) and to be legally intoxicated (i.e., BACs ≤0.10%) (22% vs. 13%, p < 0.01). For both fatal and nonfatal cases, intoxication was more prevalent among victims who were male, aged 20 to 39 years, or who were injured at nighttime (7:00 PM to 6:59 AM). Bicyclists who died at the scene were four times as likely as those who died at hospitals to be legally intoxicated (36% vs. 9%, p < 0.02). Given a serious bicycling injury, intoxication was associated with significantly increased likelihood of fatality, with an adjusted odds ratio of 2.8 (95% confidence interval, 1.3 to 6.3). This increased likelihood of fatality was probably due in part to the fact that the rate of helmet use at the time of injury among the intoxicated was much lower than among the sober (6% vs. 31%, p < 0.05). Results indicate that alcohol plays an important role in fatal and serious bicycling injuries. Preventing intoxicated biking should he incorporated into helmet campaigns and other bicycle safety programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1553-1559
Number of pages7
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Dec 1 1996


  • Alcohol
  • Bicycle
  • Epidemiology
  • Injury
  • Mortality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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