UNDER-REPORTING OF CYCLIST COLLISIONS – RESEARCH BY KEVIN GILDEA (TCD)

In this article, PhD researcher Kevin Gildea from Trinity College Dublin describes some recent findings from his RSA funded research project related to cyclist safety in Ireland. Cyclist.ie wishes to sincerely thank Kevin for taking the time to pen this article for us.

Kevin’s full paper, entitled “Characteristics of cyclist collisions in Ireland: Analysis of a self-reported survey”, has been published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention and can be found via this link.

The broad aims of our project are 1) to characterise cyclist collision risks in Ireland, and 2) to determine engineering-based prevention strategies. This project forms part of a broader strategy to improve cyclist safety in Ireland, and to attract more people to start using their bicycles.

Under-reporting in Ireland

Since embarking on this project I have heard numerous stories from people involved in collisions while cycling, noting that many of these are unlikely to have come to the attention of the Gardaí. I then investigated other work that Irish researchers have done in this area, specifically, from our colleagues Jack Short and Brian Caulfield in the Civil Engineering Department in Trinity College Dublin, who showed that cyclist collisions are the least likely collision type to be reported to the Gardaí. These unseen cases likely held some important cyclist safety insights, however, there was not any database that contained information for these collisions. All we had was anecdotal information from conversations with cyclists. We had to put some manners on this, so, in 2018 we designed and distributed a survey nationally across the Republic of Ireland.

Firstly, the study highlights a large amount of underreporting for cyclist collisions in Ireland – roughly ¾ of respondents involved in injurious collisions did not report the incident to the Gardaí. Furthermore the findings indicate that many minor injuries do not appear in hospital data. This is important since road safety priorities in Ireland are based on analysis of Garda data or hospital data, though primarily using Garda data. So, a major challenge with understanding the overall burden of cyclist collisions in Ireland relates to a substantial proportion of missing data. This is not a problem specific to Ireland – very few countries have the mechanisms in place to capture information on these under reported collisions.

How can data collection be improved?

This is a tricky issue. Some countries systematically link their Police and hospital data (e.g. Sweden). Our study indicates that combined monitoring of Garda and hospital data may be effective for monitoring Serious injury collisions, however, they would not effectively capture Minor injury collisions. Our results indicate that roughly 80% of Minor injuries would not be tracked. For these we must make it easier for road users to self-report their collisions, possibly via an online platform. For example, in the Metropolitan Police in London have an online platform for reporting collisions (https://www.met.police.uk/). Another option would be to include a module on road traffic collisions in the Irish National Travel Survey.

Reporting Biases

We also investigated the factors that have effect on whether or not cyclist collisions are reported to the Gardaí. Our main findings here is that injury severity, and collision type have an effect. Collisions involving motorised vehicles were more likely to be reported to the Gardaí – this is evident from analyses of Garda reported data in which the majority (over 90%) involve vehicles. The results highlighted the relative importance of single cyclist collisions in particular, which comprised roughly 30% of the cases, but were much less likely to be reported to the Gardaí. Specifically, the odds of Garda reporting was 20 times greater for greater for collisions with motorised vehicles. Furthermore, Minor injuries were much less likely to be reported to the police than Serious injuries. Specifically, the odds of Garda reporting was 7 times greater for Serious injuries.

What are the implications?

The implications are that road safety priorities are biased towards collisions with vehicles, and more severe collisions. International studies have shown that priorities do begin to change with the inclusion of lower severity collisions. Basically, if we had had access to these unreported collisions our road safety priorities would look different.

What can we do to address these?

We are working on this. We are currently performing a further analysis of the details of cyclist to motorised vehicle collisions and single cyclist collisions, with the inclusion of unreported collision types. Pre-crash scenarios and impact configurations for cyclist collisions with bonnet-type vehicles, and collision factors and fall types for single cyclist collisions are being coded. This analysis will provide an evidence base for road safety stakeholders, and (hopefully) lead to improvements in cycling safety in Ireland.

You can contact Kevin at:
https://twitter.com/kgildeatcd