Bicycle riding is fun and good for you, and it can be an inexpensive way of getting from point A to point B. Bike riding is something that most of us learned when we were kids, and many continue to enjoy this activity well into adulthood. While kids ride bikes mostly for fun and play, adults tend to ride for exercise and a good healthy dose of fresh air. Biking provides many benefits at a far lower cost than other modes of transportation, but it is not without risk.
In Washington State, bike riders must follow all the rules of the road, just like cars. But unlike car occupants, there is no protective barrier around a rider’s body to protect them in the event of a crash. So as summer approaches and many people hit the streets on their bicycles, it is wise to consider methods for preventing bicycle-related injuries.
Laws for Preventing Injuries During Cycling
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends the following actions to help lessen injuries while cycling:
- Ride in the same direction as traffic;
- Obey all traffic devices, lane designations, signals, and signs that apply to motor vehicle operators;
- Obey all the other rules of the road that govern vehicle operators, like signaling when turning;
- Wear bright, fluorescent clothing that draws attention and makes you more visible to drivers;
- If riding at dusk or at night, use a front-mounted light and rear red reflectors or flashing light to increase visibility;
- Use reflector tape all over the bike and your clothing to increase visibility; and
- Always wear a good helmet.
This last item is probably the most important action needed for preventing injuries during cycling. It is also the action that people are least likely to take. Therefore, it will be the focus of the remainder of this discussion.
Biking Accident Head Injuries
Cyclists can sustain injuries to virtually any part of their bodies during a crash. But arguably, head injuries are of paramount concern because the loss of brain function can impact the whole person. Many people think that head trauma always results from the head directly striking a hard object. And while that is a common form of head injury, there is another type that can be more dangerous. When brisk forward motion abruptly stops, the brain can crash back and forth inside the skull, causing bruising, tearing of nerve fibers, and even internal bleeding. Delayed swelling of the brain can happen after such an impact. A swollen brain takes up more space in the skull and can cut off the organ’s critical oxygen supply. That is why it is essential to get good medical treatment after an accident, with follow-up visits that check for secondary injuries. Here is a breakdown of traumatic injuries that can occur.
- Concussion—a mild injury that is typically temporary in nature and can involve a brief loss of consciousness;
- Contusion—a bruise on the brain caused by impact;
- Hematoma—a blood clot that forms to stop bleeding in the brain but which can grow large and result in brain compression;
- Diffuse axonal injury (DAI)—this is the tearing and stretching of nerve axons that connect neurons throughout the brain, thereby disrupting the critical flow of neural information; and
- Traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage (tSAH)—bleeding into the “cushion” space between the brain and the skull that has widespread negative effects on brain function.
These injuries can be mild, moderate, or severe. They can be primary or secondary injuries and may not be detectable until days or weeks after the initial injury.
Helmets: To Wear or Not to Wear?
Helmets have been a somewhat controversial topic over the years. Many people believe that helmets are of minimal value. These people reason that if you are hit by a vehicle while riding your bike, you will likely suffer severe injuries that no helmet can prevent. Others believe that the least you can do is attempt to protect your brain from injury. After all, broken bones will heal, but traumatic brain injuries can last a lifetime. So who is right?
There have been numerous studies done worldwide that examine how useful a helmet is in preventing injuries during cycling. Although the percentages found in these studies vary somewhat, the overwhelming conclusion is that using a helmet dramatically decreases your chances of suffering a serious head injury. It is true that wearing a helmet does not protect you from all head injuries. But studies have proven that it decreases your odds of severe injury by up to 80%. The International Journal of Epidemiology published one such study that showed that helmet use significantly reduced the odds of severe or fatal head injuries. Helmet use also reduces your chances of sustaining less serious head and facial injuries.
Washington state has no universal helmet laws. The following are the counties and cities that do require helmets for all age groups:
- Bainbridge Island,
- Gig Harbor,
- King County (including Seattle),
- Pierce County,
- Port Angeles,
- Port Orchard,
- University Place,
- Vancouver, and
- Military bases.
But regardless of whether your county requires them, helmets are the single largest protection you have against biking brain injuries.
Your Trusted Biking Injury Legal Team
The injury legal team at Brett McCandlis Brown & Connor, PLLC, have decades of experience handling all types of injury cases. We know biking accidents can result in life-altering injuries that upend your entire life. If a biking accident injures you or someone you love, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. They need to examine you thoroughly to determine the extent of your injuries.
And never, ever speak to an insurance adjuster before contacting our lawyer. The insurance company’s only goal is to pay you as little compensation as possible for your injuries. And the best method they have for doing that is low-balling unsuspecting cyclists and pressuring them into taking a horrible offer before they speak to an attorney. Do not fall for this borderline unethical practice. Stand up for your rights by calling us. We know all the tricks played by insurance companies, and we know how to get you fair compensation for the harm you have suffered. Give us a call for a free consultation, or contact us online today.