Injury and fatality risks for child pedestrians and cyclists on public roads (Injury Epidemiology)

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Motor vehicle crashes (MVCs) on public roads account for over 40,000 deaths in the United States each year, and 22% of these deaths are a result of pedestrian and pedal-cyclist injuries (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Though walking and cycling are often encouraged as simple and cost-effective ways of being active and benefiting the environment (e.g., reduced emissions of air pollutants, greenhouse gases, and noise) (World Health Organization 2022), they pose a traffic safety challenge.

In recent years, roads in the United States have become more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, a group sometimes referred to as “vulnerable road users” (U.S. Department of Transportation 2022). Between 2011 and 2020, pedestrian fatalities increased over 30% and cyclist fatalities increased by about 27%, for a total of 6,516 and 938 deaths for each group, respectively (National Center for Statistics and Analysis 2020). Fatal and nonfatal pedestrian crashes accounted for approximately $17.6 billion in economic costs based on 2019 dollars, while cyclist crashes accounted for approximately $5.6 billion in economic costs. These are cost increases of 27% and 16%, respectively, over pedestrian and cyclist crashes in 2010 (inflated to 2019 dollars).

Young child holding his knee and sitting in an empty street. A white bicycle is fallen over on the ground in front of him.

Between 2016 and 2020, the study observed 206,429 pedestrian injuries (36% in children aged 0–19) and 148,828 cyclist injuries (41% in children aged 0–19). Among children aged less than 20, boys (51%) and girls (49%) had similar pedestrian injuries, but cyclist injuries were greater for boys (81%) than girls (19%), suggesting riskier cycling behaviors among boys. Across all age groups, fatality risks were greater when pedestrians and cyclists were injured by trucks and buses and injured in rural areas and at non-intersections. While crash injuries decreased in 2020, fatality risk was highest in 2020 for both pedestrians and cyclists.

Read the full study about injury and fatality risks for child pedestrians and cyclists on public roads here.