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New study sheds light on substantial injuries and deaths due to motorcycle accidents

While only 20 percent of car crashes result in injury or death, that number increases to 80 percent for motorcycle crashes. Unfortunately, the number of motorcyclist fatalities has risen dramatically over the last 7 years. This trend coincides with an increase in the number of States repealing laws making motorcycle helmet use mandatory and a dramatic reduction in helmet use from 71 percent in 2000 to 58 percent in 2002.

The first national study of the prevalence and impact of motorcycle-related injuries leading to hospitalization reveals their substantial medical and financial impact. The study was conducted by Jeffrey H. Coben, M.D., of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and West Virginia University, and Claudia A. Steiner, M.D., M.P.H., and Pamela Owens, Ph.D., of AHRQ's Center for Delivery, Organization, and Markets.

The researchers calculated that on average, for each day in 2001, there were about 25 new lower extremity fractures, 10 new intracranial injuries, and one new spinal cord injury resulting from motorcycle crashes. They estimated that 30,505 individuals were discharged from the hospital in 2001 due to motorcycle-related injuries. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of these individuals were 30 years of age or older, and males accounted for 89 percent of cases. Over half of the patients were diagnosed with fractures of the lower limb (29 percent), fractures of the upper limb (13 percent), and intracranial injuries (12 percent). Those with intracranial injuries were much more likely to die than those with other principal diagnoses (10.6 vs. 0.8 percent).

Patients stayed in the hospital a mean of 5 days. Median hospital charges were $15,404, with estimated hospital charges totaling over $841 million for this group of patients. Most of the patients (56.5 percent) were admitted to large urban teaching hospitals, which accounted for nearly 70 percent of all hospital charges. About one-fourth of cases (26 percent) were self-pay or had public insurance as the expected payer, and 67 percent had private or HMO insurance as the primary expected payer. These findings are based on an analysis of the 2001 Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP).

See "Motorcycle-related hospitalizations in the United States, 2001," by Drs. Coben, Steiner, and Owens, in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine 27(5), pp. 355-362, 2004.

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