Bicycles and Brain Injuries
Listen up! Two words apply: Largely Preventable. And here’s why…
The British Medical Journal published a study showing a decrease in hospitalization of young people for bicycle-related head injuries in areas that had laws requiring helmets. In London, an area with such legislation in place, there was a noted decrease in brain injuries. The study noted that when helmets aren’t worn, head injuries are very common. Along with other safety measures, this is great news for parents (and, of course, bike riding kids).
Some basic safety tips for young and not-so-young riders include:
- Pay attention to your surroundings and to others near you. Never assume drivers see you!
- When riding with traffic, stay to your right. Don’t go all the way against the curb, but stay aligned with the right wheels of the vehicles near you. You’re in the drivers’ line of sight and it gives you room to get over and avoid obstacles.
- Single file, please. Or, if you must, ride side by side but never more than two abreast.
- In traffic exceeding 45 miles per hour, stay in bike lanes or on the paved shoulders. Leave these areas only to avoid obstacles, pass another biker, or make a left turn.
- Always ride with the flow of traffic unless it’s not possible.
- Always wear a helmet!
The last one really sticks out given the info from the London study. Safety, not wishful thinking, saves lives. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) keeps data on motor vehicle accidents. Their data on accidents involving bicycles is frightening. Motor vehicle/bicycle accidents claimed the lives of 618 riders in 2010. That same year saw another 52,000 cyclists injured. Two percent of traffic fatalities were cyclists and two percent of all traffic injuries.
Fortunately, California has a helmet law, at least for those less than 18 years of age. It’s pretty easy to understand, too. If you’re under 18:
- You have to wear a helmet if you’re riding a bike on a street, bikeway, trail, or other public bike path.
- This law extends to wee ones in restraining seats and those being towed by the bike.
- It also requires you to wear a helmet if you’re riding a scooter, skateboard or using roller blades (inline skates).
- Your helmet must be properly fitted and fastened as well as labeled as meeting either of the following safety standards:
- The American National Standards Institute
- The Snell Memorial Foundation’s Standard for Protective Headgear for Use in Bicycling
- The American Society for Testing Materials
The fines for non-compliance are small. But never mind the fines! This is about preventing death and permanent brain damage from closed head injuries caused by car/bike accidents. Believe me, it’s a lot cheaper – and cooler – to wear a bike helmet when you ride than it is to pay for medical care or a funeral if you don’t.