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Apr 05, 2015 11:45 PM EDT

Detailed Crash Reports May Improve Bicycle Safety

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Harvard researchers are calling upon police in all states to improve their reporting of crashes involving vehicles and bicycles.

Currently, details on crashes are handwritten by police on paper and there are few bicycle-relevant codes.  Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health are asking police to use electronic tablets that would include more options to gather bicycle-specific data, such as drawings of the scene and additional codes that could indicate, for example, if the bicyclist was riding inside a painted bike lane and ran into a driver's open car door.

 This detailed information about each vehicle/bicycle crash could be automatically uploaded into spreadsheets for later analysis. Analysis, especially when combined with big data, could then guide the building of safer bicycle environments, encouraging more people to cycle, the authors said.

"Self-driving cars have been invented and apps tell cyclists of approaching vehicles but the vehicle/bicycle crash details are still hand written and drawn on the police crash report template, making crash analysis labor-intensive. To equal other technological advancements and improve the safety of bicyclists, multiple bicycle-crash-scene codes should be created for immediate data entry," Anne Lusk, co-author of the study and research scientist in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan, said in a statement.

The researcher's proposal addresses the increase in the number of bicyclists on the road in the U.S. The number of commuters who bike to and from work has risen about 62 percent from 2000 to 2013.

Previous studies have indicated that if safety of the bicycle environment improved, more individuals would be willing to bike.

The findings are detailed in the journal Injury Prevention.

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