Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Roadkill: Helmets, Cycling, and The Worst Drivers in the World

Is it safe to take my helmet off?

In 2005 I was run over twice while cycling in Australia. My injuries were not serious, and I received excellent treatment plus a decent insurance settlement for my troubles. When I later worked in Personal Injury law my boss said I could have received a lot more. I would never suggest car crashes as a means to wealth. It is obviously risky. Had I not been wearing my helmet I would be dead and no amount of money would bring me back.

Now that I am in Japan I wonder if wearing a helmet makes sense. Only small children and cycling enthusiasts wear bicycle helmets and it is easy to see why: cars travel extremely slowly in urban areas. People try not to look at me but I know I look like a retard or a foreigner, or both.

I thought I would have to analyse several datasets to get some answers, but the World Health Organisation has prepared some spiffy infographics.

Estimated Road Traffic Death Rate Per 100,000 population, 2010
Number of road traffic deaths and distribution by type of road user, 2010

Looking at my favourite countries:
  • Australia:6.1 deaths per 100,000, 2.9% cyclists
  • Singapore: 5.1 deaths per 100,000, 8.1% cyclists
  • Japan: 5.2 deaths per 100,000, 16.2% cyclists
In Australia, motorists are kind enough to take each other out. Of the 6.1 deaths 0.18 were cyclists. Whereas in Japan, of their 5.2 deaths 0.84 poor buggers came off their bike for good.

Which Country Has the Worst Drivers?

I presume that the country with the worst drivers would have the most injuries per car.
Wolfram Alpha has data on injuries, not just fatalities. Here is the link to my query. However, it does not have any injury data for Australia or Singapore.

So, let's try most deaths per car. This time I will use the WHO data tables for registered vehicle numbers:

  • Japan: 6625 deaths per year, 89.8 m vehicles = 73.77 deaths / million vehicles
  • Australia: 1363 deaths, 16 m vehicles = 85.19 deaths / million vehicles
  • Singapore: 259 deaths, 0.9 m vehicles = 287.77 deaths / million vehicles
I think I'll keep that helmet on, and not go cycling in Singapore.

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