The latest survey of moped, bicycle and motorcycle accidents on the Island won't show the broken ribs, the punctured lungs or the "whole body rubbed raw" by a case of road rash, said Dr. Alan Hirshberg, the director of emergency services at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital.
But for the third year in a row, the study compiled by Dr. Hirshberg and his support staff at the hospital and released last week details some of the risks of two-wheeled travel on Martha's Vineyard and a sense of who's getting hurt when those vehicles bite the dust.
Dr. Hirshberg is also a man who likes to spot trends, and statistics for mopeds - certainly the most controversial of the three categories - jump off the spreadsheet for this emergency room doctor.
"The impact and the force of the injury come up when I review the narrative of the moped people," said Dr. Hirshberg. "The numbers are clearly higher than any other category."
While the number of moped accidents that sent riders to the hospital in 2002 dropped compared to the two previous two years, moped accident victims continued to require emergency care at a much higher rate than do victims of bike and motorcycle crashes.
Of the 35 moped accident victims who came to the hospital last year, 80 per cent required EMT treatment and transport. In the case of people injured in motorcycle accidents, 42 per cent needed such service. For bicycle crash victims, the rate was 33 per cent, according to the study.
The number of injured moped riders treated in the emergency room fell from 66 in 2000 to 43 in 2001 and then to 35 last year. Meanwhile, the average cost of moped accidents continued to outpace both bicycles and motorcycle crashes. The average medical charges for an injured moped rider brought to the ER was $3,304 compared to $3,045 for injured motorcyclists and $2,344 for bicyclists.
"The nature of their [moped] injuries is generally worse," said the doctor.
There are some simple theories for the gaps, according to Dr. Hirshberg. Moped riders - only three per cent of them from the Island and almost all daytrippers or weekend tourists - tend to wear less clothing when they're out riding than their motorcyclist counterparts and to travel at higher speeds than the bicyclists.
Still, despite the focus on moped injuries, the crash and victim data for bicycles and motorcycles increased sharply last year. Bike accident victims who landed in the ER jumped from 120 in 2001 to 141 in 2002. For motorcyclists, the number of people injured and treated at the hospital rose from eight to 19.
Dr. Hirshberg said that some of narrative data revealed more people in these two categories getting hurt after attempting stunts. Also, the doctor was disheartened to see survey results reporting that only 52 per cent of injured bicycle riders were wearing a helmet.
Of the 141 bike crash victims, almost 30 per cent suffered head injuries. Three-fourths of those people, said Dr. Hirshberg, wore no helmet and probably could have avoided a trip to the ER if they had bothered to strap on some protective head gear.
But back to the raw data: The study found that 63 per cent of the moped riders treated in the hospital were female, compared to 42 per cent of bicyclists and 19 per cent of motorcyclists.
Sixty per cent of the injured bicyclists were visitors to the Island. Of the 19 motorcyclists treated, 84 per cent were Vineyarders.
Dr. Hirshberg is not sure whether he will continue the detailed study next year.
"In 2000, people were complaining there wasn't any data," he said. "Now, we've answered a number of questions about a public health issue and seen how things change over time."