National Bike Month is being celebrated throughout May so it’s the perfect time to talk about a fundamental element of riding safety: wearing a bike helmet.
As more and more of us share the road, whether driving, riding a bike, walking or jogging, more potential exists for accidents and injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 45,000 bicyclists were injured in 2015, with 818 fatalities. That averages out to more than two deaths per day.
As with any physical activity, bike riding contains an element of risk. A rider who falls off a bike or is struck by a vehicle may suffer abrasions, or even broken bones. But broken bones can be repaired and cuts can be stitched. The most troubling impact for a bicyclist is an injury to the head. Skull fractures and traumatic brain injuries can result in permanent loss of bodily functions, coma, or death. Even a seemingly minor bump to the head could have potentially severe consequences, and the symptoms of a brain injury may take days, weeks, or longer to appear.
At LaMarche Safranko Law, we have worked with clients dealing with brain injuries and see firsthand the devastating impact on their lives. They struggle through lengthy recoveries with a host of challenges including their inability to work, loss of memory, emotional disorders and other post-concussive symptoms.
The use of a helmet to protect against head injuries is a smart and easy way to reduce your risk.
Photo by: bagaball
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that helmet use has been estimated to reduce the odds of head injury by 50 percent, and the odds of head, face, or neck injury by 33 percent. The New England Journal of Medicine puts that number even higher, saying that riders with helmets had an 85 percent reduction in their risk of head injury and an 88 percent reduction in their risk of brain injury.
As important as helmets clearly are, no state has a universal law mandating their use. Just under half–including New York–have laws regulating helmet use for certain age groups. In New York state, all bicyclists under the age of fourteen are required to wear approved bicycle helmets when they are operators or passengers on bicycles. Child passengers between one and four years old must wear approved bicycle helmets and ride in a specially designed child safety seat, while children under the age of one are prohibited from being transported on a bicycle. Certain localities across the state have passed local ordinances regarding helmet use for bicyclists.
Photo by: University of the Fraser Valley
Bicycle helmets sold in the U.S. must meet the standards issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Look for the certification label inside the helmet. A helmet should fit squarely on top of the head in a level position and cover the top of the forehead, extending down to about an inch above the eyebrows. The helmet should not be able to slide back and forth on the head or rock from side to side. In the event of a crash, helmets should be replaced immediately, even if there is no apparent damage. Consumer Reports has an online buying guide with helpful tips on what to look for in a helmet and how to get the right fit.
Below is a list of some local shops in the capital district you may want to visit to purchase a helmet.
In addition to always wearing a helmet, you should take other safety precautions including obeying all traffic signs and signals, never riding against traffic, dressing in bright colors and making sure your bike is in good working condition.
For more information about bike safety, check out LaMarche Safranko’s PedBikeLaw initiative, dedicated to road safety advocacy and legal representation.