The right equipment can significantly increase your chances of survival in the event that you're struck by a motorist while riding your bicycle. In 2010, "618 lost their lives in bicycle/motor vehicle crashes, just under two people every day of the year in the U.S." The NHTSA reported that over 52,000 bicyclists were injured that same year which yielded a total cost of over $4 billion per year.
The risk of bicycling varies by time of day, the experience level of the rider, the location he or she is riding, and whether or not the cyclist is intoxicated. Some trends, however, seem to be prevalent. Studies breaking down the age, gender, and location of bicycle crash victims revealed some alarming factors. For example, 86% of the deceased were male and 75% of the injured were male.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends taking the following steps to ensure a proper fit when purchasing a bicycle safety helmet. The following advice can be applied to adults and children. Here's how you can make sure your helmet protects your head properly:
- Measure your head to see which size feels best. If needed, try on a number of different helmets until you find a brand that feels good. Each manufacturer has its own idea of what small, medium, and large looks like. Don't settle for a subpar helmet. Shop around to find one that you'll use.
- Position the helmet so it sits securely on the head and low on the forehead. One or two finger-widths above your eyebrow is ideal.
- Slide the straps. Adjust the slider to make a V shape. Make sure that they're snug but not too tight.
- Secure the buckle. Center the left buckle under the chin. This will help keep the helmet in place.
- Buckle the chin strap. Make sure it's secure. This will keep everything in place as you ride down the road.
- Do a final fitting to make sure everything is right. Does it feel good? Can the helmet be rocked back or forward too much? Are the straps choking you? If so, make some adjustments. A few minutes of preparation can prevent a lifetime of suffering for you and your loved ones.
Other pieces of equipment that can protect young bicyclists include elbow and knee pads. These items can prevent scratches, bruises, and broken bones. They're worth the investment. Adults can benefit from them as well. Reflectors and a bicycle light can also alert motorists to your presence on the roadways at night.
WearYourHelmet.org offers a long list of non-profits and organizations that provide free and low-cost helmets to bicyclists. Many fire departments and emergency service providers assist their communities by hosting bicycle safety events where they perform maintenance on bicycles and hand out helmets to children and adults. They know doing so will prevent injuries and fatalities from occurring.
A well-fitting helmet can reduce your chances of suffering a brain injury and you being killed while riding your bicycle. Even if you follow the laws of the road perfectly, it doesn't mean that the motorists traveling with you will drive with caution. If you're struck and knocked to the ground, the right helmet can prevent head trauma and literally save your life. Don't leave home without putting yours on.
Joe Macaluso is a personal injury lawyer practicing at the Bronx law firm of Macaluso & Fafinski, P.C. A graduate of Brooklyn Law School, Mr. Macaluso has been in private practice since 1990 with an exclusive focus on personal injury and medical malpractice. A member of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, he has served on the Legislative Committee of this organization and is also a member of the Bronx County Bar Association and has served on the Board of Directors of Bronx Legal Services.