By: Donna Devita
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A Leading Cause of Injuries for Kids in the Summer
Nearly 25 kids every hour are treated for bicycle injuries!
Bicycles are an excellent way to get kids out of the house and exploring the outdoors. But just like any other mode of transportation, bicycles can cause serious and even fatal accidents if safety is ignored.
Fun But Dangerous Rides
According to a study released by the Center for Injury Research and Policy, 2.2 million children were treated for bike-related injuries in emergency departments across the United States between January 2006 to December 2015. Depending on the accident, these bike injuries ranged from minor cuts to extremely serious conditions, and sadly even a number of deaths. Healthychildren.org reports the most common bike injuries sustained by children include:
- Head injuries (ranging from minor bumps to concussions)
- Neck injuries
- Abdominal injuries
- Groin injuries
- Fractures (broken bone)
- Soft tissue damage (cuts, scrapes, bruises, road rash)
Between 2011 to 2015, there were a total of 22 bicycle fatalities in Connecticut and most were completely preventable. So far, zero bicycle fatalities have been reported in 2018! In addition, most state public health officials are reporting seeing less serious bike injuries this year but that doesn’t mean they can’t happen without precautions.
Research shows most bicycle injuries, especially with children, occur within close proximity of the home. Educating your children about the most common reasons for bike accidents, how to avoid them, and setting ground rules for bike riding are the best preventative measures for reducing injuries this season.
Staying Clear of Cars
Bicycle accidents involving collisions with cars are the number one cause of fatal and serious injuries. In 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported over 800 bicycle fatalities from motor vehicle accidents. Bicycle riders and motorists don’t always understand how to share the road, even though all states require them to follow the same traffic laws. Bicycles can easily get hit by cars when encountering these types of traffic behaviors on the road:
- Left hooks: when cars fail to see bicycles on the right before a sharp left-hand turn (most common accident for cars and bikes).
- Right hooks: when cars are not paying attention to bikes on their left before a right-hand turn.
- Lane hogging: when cars refuse or neglect to adhere to designated bike lanes or attempt to pass a bike without switching lanes.
- No reflectors: when bicycles neglect to use reflectors riding at night and cars cannot see them.
- Failing to yield: when either the car or the bicycle fail to yield to whoever has the right away on the road.
- Failing to signal: when either the car or the bicycle neglect to use proper signals when switching lanes or turning.
Children are especially susceptible to being hit by cars when on bikes since they are less familiar with traffic laws and more spontaneous when riding. Young riders may forget about the dangers of cars or falsely believe that cars will stop for them if they dart out onto the road.
Don’t Forget Your Helmet
Traumatic brain injuries are one of the most devastating injuries sustained from a bike accident. According to the National Institute of Medicine, at least one in three children hospitalized for bike-related injuries were diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI’s can result in several short and long-term consequences, such as:
- Memory loss
- Impaired cognition
- Behavior changes (mood swings)
- Trouble with language skills
- Loss of consciousness (coma)
- Loss of body sensations
- Increased risk of more serious health conditions (stroke, seizure, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, other degenerative conditions)
- Partial or full paralysis
However, despite the statistics highlighting the significant risks of not wearing a helmet, bicyclists continue to put themselves in harm’s way. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports only about 18% of adult bicyclists wear a helmet when riding and only about 15% of child cyclists wear one under the age of 15! These numbers are extremely concerning, particularly since the chance of sustaining a severe or fatal head injury is reduced up to 50% simply by wearing this piece of safety equipment most riders leave at home.
Watch Out for Road Hazards
Some of the most common bike injuries are caused by simple road hazards that don’t look too dangerous until you’re on unstable wheels. Aside from avoiding roads with heavy traffic, KidsHealth from Nemours identifies the most common obstacles that can cause children to sustain a bike injury from a fall:
- gravel and rocks
- wet leaves
- elevation changes in the road
- other bikes and children
- storm grates
Steep hills with the chance for excessive speed can also set your child up for injuries if they are not aware of how to safely brake or encounter one of these hazards while excelling down.
Educating CT on Bike Safety
Several local health organizations, including police departments, hospitals, safety coalitions and other safety groups across the state are contributing a significant amount of time and resources into educating the public on proper bike safety. For instance, Safe Kids Greater Naugatuck Valley Coalition at Griffin Hospital hosts an annual bike rodeo with services including helmet fittings, bike inspections, and resources for how to promote safe bike riding in your neighborhood.
Most bike injuries can easily be prevented just by using the right equipment. NHTSA and Healthychildren.org provide several equipment recommendations for keeping your kids safe on their bikes this summer:
- Helmets– If you are riding any type of bike, wear a helmet. This is the most important piece of safety equipment to help prevent bike injuries to the head and should fit appropriately in order to work correctly.
- Clothing- Don’t wear baggy clothing that can get caught in the wheels and spokes of the bike. It’s also helpful for children to wear brightly colored clothing so cars can spot them easily on the street.
- Shoes- Closed toe shoes can prevent your feet from getting caught in pedals or scraped on the ground. Make sure to wear sturdy shoes with secured laces when riding.
- Pads- Inexperienced bike riders may want to consider elbow, wrist, and knee pads to prevent scrapes or bruises from hard impacts on the ground.
- Reflectors- Wearing reflective gear and putting extra reflectors on your bike can make it easier for cars to see you when biking on the road at night.
- Rules/Parental Guidance- Set ground rules with your kids before they leave the house to help them understand the true dangers of biking in the neighborhood. Teach them simple traffic laws to follow (such as which side of the road to ride on) and always encourage them to ride in smaller groups or pairs. Smaller children should never be allowed to ride in the street alone or unsupervised to prevent horrifying accidents with cars.
Keep CT Bike Fatalities at Zero
Connecticut residents should be proud of their dedication to bike safety- zero bike fatalities is a huge accomplishment. Help keep bike injuries and fatalities low in your community by always practicing safe riding and spreading awareness of how to prevent accidents around your neighborhood.
Jacobs & Wallace supports the rights of Connecticut residents to safely bike to work, school, or simply for recreation. If you or a loved one has sustained a serious bike injury due to the negligence of another, you may be eligible for deserved compensation. Call our winning team today to schedule a free consultation and explore your options for seeking justice for your unnecessary injuries.