Talk to any bicyclists that have been in a crash and they’ll tell you how much road rash hurts or they’ll share some frightening details of their damaged shoulder or head injuries. But chances are they won’t tell you how much their emergency room treatments cost or how much work they missed due to a serious injury.
Health care costs are a hot topic these days, but many cyclists or parents whose children hop onto their bikes regularly don’t give much thought as to how much their wallets and their lives will be affected if they are in a crash. You know the feeling: It won’t happen to me.
But it might and when it does, you’re likely to suffer major economic – as well as physical and mental – impact. A report from the National Safety Council (NSC) drew some attention from the Pedestrian & Bicycle Information Center. In its calculations, the NSC counts not just medical expenses, but also the costs of lost productivity and quality of life, wages, vehicle damage and employer’s uninsured costs. It put the 2012 cost for each bicycle fatality at $4.5 million and the cost of a single bicycle injury at more than $58,000. The NSC tally for that year combined was more than $6 billion.
Another study, published in 2017 by a team from the University of California San Francisco notes that as cycling has become more popular, medical costs from “non-fatal bike crashes (climbed) steadily by $789 million annually” over a 17-year period ending in 2013.
And while the Center for Disease Control and Prevention notes “bicycle trips account for only 1 percent of all trips in the United States,” it says what should be obvious, the risk of injury and death to cyclists is greater than those in motor vehicles.
Those injuries are often significant, ranging from scrapes and bruises to fractures, frequently in the upper extremities, and even traumatic brain injuries. Research has shown that helmets can reduce the risk of head injuries – but only if they are worn correctly.
Even still, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports, “A total of 835 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2016. That is the highest number of bicyclist deaths since 1991. More than half of those killed in 2016 weren’t wearing helmets. Helmet use has been estimated to reduce the odds of a head injury by 50 percent.”
So besides wearing your helmet and being alert on the road, what can you do to protect yourself? It may seem silly to point that out, but if you think about it, people in cars are more likely than not to have insurance coverage in case of an accident. The majority are likely to have medical payment insurance as a part of that coverage as well. But is that enough to protect you?
Your auto or home/renter liability insurance may partially cover you if you’re hurt in a bike crash involving a motor vehicle or are responsible for a crash that injures another person. Yet the highest costs will be borne by your health insurance. With this in mind, there are some important questions to consider. How much is your deductible? What are your policy limits?
If you are a serious cyclist or a bike commuter who rides frequently and puts in lots of miles, you probably want to take a close look at your policies and consider upping your coverage.
There are also some policies designed specifically for cyclists. Created to cover damaged or lost bikes, these also offer add-on medical insurance or liability coverage.
Take steps now to protect yourself and your wallet. Health care costs aren’t getting any cheaper.