According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wearing a helmet is the most effective way to avoid head injuries and deaths caused by bike accidents. Despite this seemingly obvious fact, a recent poll by Consumer Reports found that out of 1000 Americans, 82 percent admitted that while they felt it was “very” or “extremely” important to wear a helmet while cycling, only 44 percent said they would actually wear one. This disparity between belief and practice, along with the rise of bicycling in popularity as both a form of recreation and exercise in the past few years, are both to blame for the increase in riding related injuries. Overall, non-helmeted riders are 14 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than helmeted riders. A very high percentage of cyclists’ brain injuries can be prevented by a helmet, estimated to be anywhere from 45 to 88 percent. Though a ten-dollar investment in a helmet from Target could save you thousands of dollars in hospital bills from brain injuries, kids and adults simply aren’t wearing them with the prudence they should.
Riding a bike at any age can be dangerous, but serious injuries and complications from such accidents increases with age. Even following the most sensible safety precautions – such as wearing a helmet, ensuring proper size and function of bicycle, following the rules of the road, maintaining visibility at all times, and staying focused on the task of biking – cannot eliminate all accidents that can result in serious injuries, including brain trauma.
Cyclist-related accidents account for upwards of 4% of all emergency room visits, with the most common injuries to the upper extremities as compared to the lower extremities. While simple abrasions and cuts are the most typical injuries, sprains, contusions, hematomas, and fractures are all typical. Head and facial trauma are also frequent results of bike accidents. When a cycling related fatality is reported, the cause is almost always attributed to an automobile versus cyclist accident.
With more than 17 million adults estimated to ride a bike at least twice weekly, safety should always come first. Wearing a helmet is only the first barrier between your vulnerable head and the hard, unforgiving pavement. Using street smarts when riding is equally if not more important. For example, riding with the flow of traffic, using a headlight, honking to warn traffic of your presence, looking behind you before turning right, using a mirror, and signaling before turning are all important safety tips to avoid accidents. Be smart – ride with caution!