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As bicycle-related injuries increase, safety experts encourage helmet use

cyclist helmet bike
(© Maridav – stock.adobe.com)

Bicycles are a fun, efficient, and environmentally-friendly method of transportation. However, they do have some drawbacks, as even a minor accident can result in major injuries. As the rate of bicycle-related accidents increase across the country, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has begun a public outreach campaign to highlight the importance of wearing a helmet while riding a bike.

Bicycle accident and injury statistics

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides details from 2009 through 2019. During that time period, bicycle-related deaths increased. Additionally, approximately 597,000 people suffered from traumatic brain injuries and required treatment in a hospital emergency department.

Within the ten-year period, emergency department visits related to bicycle accidents dropped by 50 percent among riders under 18. However, they declined only by six percent among adults. Also, adult males were three times more likely to suffer from a traumatic brain injury compared to females.

While the information from 2009 to 2019 is the most comprehensive data available, the CPSC also released data related to cyclist behavior during the height of the pandemic. Between March through September 2020, bicycle injuries increased by one percent – although that number requires additional context. For riders aged 40 and above, the number of injuries increased by 21 percent. For adults 70 and older, the number of injuries increased by 70 percent.

How to stay safe when riding a bicycle

A bicycle helmet is the single most important piece of protective gear for riders. The CDC and CPSC recommend the following guidelines when selecting and using a bike helmet:

  • Follow all sizing guidelines. Helmets that are too big or too small do not provide adequate protection. Using a soft tape measure is usually the easiest option to determine the correct size.
  • Wear a CPSC-approved bicycle helmet. All approved helmets have an interior label explaining that they meet all federal guidelines.
  • Replace bike helmets following any type of accident or collision, even a minor impact. Helmets are designed to break apart internally on impact, a type of damage that is practically impossible to detect.
  • Follow all the rules of the road. Obey traffic signals, ride in designated bike lanes, and otherwise pay attention to the behavior of the surrounding traffic.

“Following all relevant traffic laws helps keep bicyclists safe, but that is not the only benefit,” said Attorney Jeff Shiver. “If a bicyclist is injured through no fault of their own – meaning they were in the bike lane and otherwise weren’t breaking any laws – they are in a much better position, legally-speaking, should they decide to file a lawsuit against the responsible party.”

Final thoughts

While the rise in bicycle-related accidents is alarming, the CPSC’s awareness campaign can hopefully help riders become aware of the issue and take steps to stay safe. Wearing a CPSC-approved helmet, and following all local laws, form the twin pillars of bicycle safety, helping to substantially reduce the risk of injury and death on the road.