BACK TO SCHOOL BICYCLE SAFETY
As children go back to school, they need to be aware of the dangers and circumstances around them as they ride their bicycles. The risk of negligent or even reckless conduct by a bicyclist increases enormously when the bicyclist at issue is a child. Children don't always appreciate the risks associated with their bike riding conduct, nor do they necessarily understand either the rules of the road or the manner in which a two thousand pound vehicle can injure them in a collision. Children are also more likely to be showboating for their friends, riding without hands, or engaged in similar bicycling conduct, which increases the risk of accident. Drivers should exercise particular caution when driving in the vicinity of children on bicycles.
A significant majority of permanent injuries, which result from bicycle accidents, are head injuries. The use of a bicycle helmet significantly reduces the risk of head injury from a bicycle accident. Modern bicycle helmets tend to be light and adequately ventilated.
Helmet Safety Tips:
Helmets should meet or exceed current safety standards developed
by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
Statistics concerning helmet use:
*There are 85 million bicycle riders in the US.
*770 bicyclists died on US roads in 2006, down just 14 from the year before. Over 90 percent died in crashes with motor vehicles.
*The "typical" bicyclist killed on our roads is a sober male over 16 not wearing a helmet riding on a major road between intersections in an urban area on a summer evening when hit by a car.
*About 540,000 bicyclists visit emergency rooms with injuries every year. Of those, about 67,000 have head injuries, and 27,000 have injuries serious enough to be hospitalized.
*Bicycle crashes and injuries are under-reported, since the majority are not serious enough for emergency room visits. 44,000 cyclists were reported injured in traffic crashes in 2006.
*1 in 8 of the cyclists with reported injuries has a brain injury.
*Two-thirds of the deaths here are from traumatic brain injury.
*A very high percentage of cyclists' brain injuries can be prevented by a helmet, estimated at anywhere from 45 to 88 per cent.
*Direct costs of cyclists' injuries due to not using helmets are estimated at $81 million each year.
* Indirect costs of cyclists' injuries due to not using helmets are estimated at $2.3 billion each year.
*Helmet use in the US varies by orders of magnitude in different areas and different sectors of our society. White collar commuters probably reach 80 per cent, while inner city kids and rural kids would be 10 per cent or less. Overall, our best wild guess is probably no more than 25 per cent. Sommers Point, NJ, where a state helmet law is in effect, found that only 24 of the 359 students who rode to school in one week of the Winter of 2002 wore helmets (6 per cent) until the School District adopted a helmet rule. North Carolina observed 17 per cent statewide before their law went into effect in 2001.
*Helmets are cheap. The typical discount store price has risen from under $10 to about $20, but there are still models available for under $10 at major national retailers including Target and Wal-Mart.
*Only 41 per cent of the kids 5 to 14 at surveyed sites were wearing helmets, although the sites chosen had a bias for higher rates.
* Even at sites where helmets were required, only 52 per cent wore them.
*At sites where wheels are used for transportation, only 38 per cent wore helmets.
* More than a third of the kids wearing helmets did not have them fitted correctly. Conversely, two-thirds did!
*The effect of laws was not well evaluated. Although sites with state-level helmet laws had only 45 per cent wearing helmets and sites without state level laws had 39 per cent, the study did not take into account whether or not there was a local ordinance.
More facts and information can be found on helmet use at www.helmets.org
Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury can arise from a variety of causes. The most common cause is a direct blow to the head of the injured person. However, a brain injury can occur even without a blow to the head - colliding with the inside of the skull can injure the brain. The brain can coup/contra coup "ricochet" inside the skull as the result of an accident, resulting in injury even with little or no direct force to the outside of the head. Brain injuries can occur suddenly, as the trauma causes tissues in the brain to tear, or can occur as a result of swelling or bleeding of the brain following a traumatic incident. TBI can result from violent shaking (as with "shaken baby syndrome," sometimes seen in abused children), a loss of oxygen to the brain, poisoning or infection.
As the image above shows, an injury to one part of the head can affects the brain in many different places.
(Image from the Veterans Affairs Traumatic Brain Injury Center)
Automobiles vs. Bicycles
While any act of driver negligence can result in an accident between a bicycle and a car, it seems that the following acts are of particular concern:
Dangerous Turning: When a bicycle is present at an intersection, drivers will often try to impatiently turn in front of the cyclist. For a left-hand turn, this can cut off the bicyclist's path and create a substantial risk of injury. For a right-hand turn, the bicyclist may be knocked over, or collide with the side of the turning vehicle. Give a bicyclist with right-of-way the time to clear the intersection before attempting a turn.
Dangerous Passing: Sometimes a driver won't give a bicycle enough space while passing, either forcing the bicyclist off of the road, or potentially striking the cyclist with the side of the car or the side-view mirror.
Disregard of Bike Paths: When there is a bicycle path along a roadway, whether on the shoulder of the road or on the sidewalk, drivers should take note of the presence of the bike path. Where drivers fail to respect the presence of a bike path, driveways and intersections become points of particular danger, as a bicyclist with the right-of-way may be cut off or struck by a driver who isn't even watching for their presence.
Opening Car Doors: Sometimes after parking a car, a motorist will open the door into the path of an oncoming bicyclist. These accidents can be particularly dangerous to cyclists, as they are often propelled over the car door. Pay attention to the presence of bicycles before opening your car door.
Overestimating Bicyclists' Braking Ability: While bicycle brakes have improved in recent years, they are nowhere near as effective as car brakes. Also, sudden braking can cause a bicyclist to be carried over the handlebars of the bicycle by his own momentum. Do not assume that a bicycle is capable of a sudden stop.
Underestimating Bicycle Speed: Drivers are not used to estimating the speed of bicycles, whether they are approaching from the front or rear, and may underestimate the ability of the bicyclist to catch up with them or pass them. Thus, even knowing a bicyclist is on the road, sometimes a driver will make a turn or open a car door without giving sufficient regard to the bicyclist's speed, causing an accident.