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How to avoid bicycle accidents and enjoy your ride

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Posted on by Frederick B Rogers, MD, MS, FACS

 

Stories involving bicycling accidents frequently make local and national headlines and vividly highlight the importance of taking safety precautions when you head out for a ride.

While bicycling is great exercise and is also good for the environment, it can be dangerous. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 700 people die in bicycle accidents in the U.S. each year. Approximately 500,000 sustain injuries that require emergency room treatment. Nearly one-third of all injuries are caused when bicyclists are struck by cars.

Tips to avoid bicycle accidents

Many accidents could be avoided if bicyclists and motorists followed the rules of the road, along with other important safety guidelines. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you take your bicycle on the road this summer.

Before you hit the road...

  • Protect your head: Always wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet, regardless of your age. The NHTSA says about 70 percent of all fatal bicycle accidents involve head injuries. Helmet use is the single most effective way to reduce head injuries. Unfortunately, statistics show only about 20 to 25 percent of bicyclists wear helmets.

  • Check your equipment: Make sure you bicycle is properly adjusted and the brakes and wheels are working properly. Inflate your tires.

  • Dress to be seen: Wear fluorescent or bright colors when riding -- day and night.

While you are riding...

  • Stay alert: Watch out for road hazards. Potholes, broken glass, gravel, animals and other obstacles can cause a crash. If you’re riding with a group and are in the lead, yell out to alert riders behind you of possible hazards. Don’t wear headphones or use a cell phone.

  • Look and signal: Use hand signals to let drivers and other bicyclists know where you’re going. Make eye contact with drivers whenever possible. Don’t assume drivers will stop.

  • Ride with the flow of traffic, never against it. Ride on the right side of the road, always being aware of traffic around you. Obey all traffic laws and lights.

  • Control your bicycle: Keep at least one hand on the handlebars. Carry books and other items in a bike carrier or backpack.

  • Don’t drink alcohol: In 2012, nearly one-fourth of bicyclists killed in traffic crashes were at or above the legal blood alcohol limit.

As Americans increasingly turn to bicycles to commute, get exercise, and run errands, it is more important than ever to follow safe bicycling and driving practices. We must also support and encourage efforts by state and local officials and community organizations to create safer roadways and bicycling networks.

 | Trauma Center

Frederick B. Rogers, MD, MS, FACS, is a trauma surgeon at Lancaster General Hospital. Education: Medical School—University of Vermont College of Medicine; Residency—University of Illinois at Chicago; Fellowship—Cook County Hospital. Past trauma program medical director, Dr. Rogers is committed to educating and mentoring medical students and advancing trauma research.

 
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