Investigating common trends in New Zealand cycling fatalities
Following the death of five cyclists in New Zealand during November 2010, The Chief Coroner announced a national Inquest to try and identify any common trends or information that could prevent a re-occurrence of such tragedies. However there was concern that the Inquest scope was of limited value without reference to a much larger sample of crashes.
To help inform this Inquest, a larger investigation into NZ cycling fatalities dating back to 2006 was undertaken. The aim was to try to identify any consistent patterns in crash occurrences that were significantly over-represented.
All cycling fatalities in NZ since January 2006 were identified from crash records and media reports; 75 fatalities were identified through to March 2012. Review of the relevant Police and media reports identified common attributes. Potential initiatives that could have prevented each fatality were also considered.
Some notable trends were found. Older cyclists (>50 years) are very over-represented, despite their relatively low cycling involvement, and also more likely to be at fault. Fatalities involving heavy vehicles and/or state highways were also higher than expected. Poor observation by drivers was very common. The study also identified inconsistencies in crash information recorded, including recording of non-motor vehicle crashes and clothing/helmets worn.
The study has provided valuable information to inform both the Inquest and transport safety agencies in general about what is needed to reduce the cycling road toll. It identifies additional trends that are not evident from just examining cycle injury crashes.