FAIRBANKS — A recent statewide study on motorcycle crash injuries had some unexpected results for Interior Alaska.
With its fairly large population and hundreds of miles of highways, researchers expected the Interior would have a high rate of hospitalizations related to bike crashes. Instead, the Interior had by far the lowest rate for any region in Alaska with 2.2 hospitalizations per 100,000 people during a 10-year period. The rate was 9.9 for the Anchorage/Mat-Su region and 15.7 for the Kenai Peninsula area.
Researchers with the Alaska Section were surprised by the numbers, and plan to do more research on motorcycle accidents to better understand them, said health program manager Deborah Hull-Jilly with the Alaska Department of Heath and Social Services, Section of Epidemiology.
The numbers could mean there are proportionally fewer motorcyclists on the road in the Interior or it could mean Interior riders are less likely to get into crashes. It also could mean Interior motorcycle wrecks are more deadly because the study did not include cases where motorcycle crash victims died before reaching a hospital.
“That’s one of the things that we want to go back and look at,” Hull-Jilly said. “We all fully had anticipated that the highest rates would be in the most populated areas which have the most lane miles.”
For the study, researchers looked at the Alaska Department of Health’s Alaska Trauma Registry database of 745 motorcycle crash injury hospitalizations in Alaska between 2001 and 2010. In addition to the regional breakdown, other findings included:
• Almost half (47 percent) of accidents that led to hospitalizations were caused by riders losing control without hitting anything. Some 37 percent were caused by crashes with vehicles or pedestrians and 8 percent were caused by collisions with other objects.
• Some 12 percent were suspected or proven to be associated with alcohol, 10 percent were believed to have been associated with illegal drugs.
• Some 54 percent of those hospitalized were wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, 12 percent were wearing protective clothing.
• The median hospital stay was three days and cost $17,274. The total bill for all 745 hospitalizations was $29 million.
To improve the study, researchers plan to link the health trauma database with Department of Transportation’s crash statistics.
“We want to take the data that is being collected and link it or analyze it individually and put it out there so that people have the most current information so they can make informed decisions,” Hull-Jilly said.
Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at
459-7545. Follow him on Twitter, @FDMNcrime.