Aim: To determine the incidence of injury deaths and hospitalisations associated with pedal cycle use in both traffic and nontraffic environments and in the national population of New Zealand.
Methods: All cases of pedal cycle injuries resulting in death between 1979-88, and all those resulting in hospitalisation in 1988 were identified from health information services files.
Results: Between 1979 and 1988, 238 cyclists died. Seventy-six percent were male, and 39% of all fatalities occurred to those aged 5-14 years. Collisions with motor vehicles accounted for most fatalities. Head injuries alone, or with other injuries, were associated with death in 60% of cases. In 1988, 1500 cyclists were admitted to hospital for the treatment of their injuries. Fifty-one percent of those hospitalised were aged 5-14, and males accounted for 70% of all admissions. Thirty-four percent involved a collision with a motor vehicle. Intracranial injuries and skull fractures accounted for 46% of hospital admissions, and had the highest scores on the abbreviated injury scale (AIS).
Conclusion: This study shows that head injuries are a common cause of death and hospital admission for cyclists. Increases in cycle helmet wearing rates are likely to reduce the frequency and severity of head injury. Other prevention strategies include cycling skills programmes that have been evaluated and shown to be effective, the identification and modification of aspects of cycle design that contribute to injuries, and changes to road design.