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Why Bike Helmets Are Important
Whether you wear a bike helmet religiously, or choose to go without, chances are you probably already know why bike helmets are important. It seems common sense: if you wear a helmet, your head is more protected in the event of a bicycle crash. If you go without a helmet and crash, you are more likely to have head injuries. But what are the real facts behind bicycle helmets? Do they really prevent that many head injuries? Do they present their own set of risks by limiting the ability to hear oncoming traffic and street noises?
The battle lines are drawn- there are two sides to the issue. Some people believe in wearing helmets every time they ride. Other people either wear them because they must (due to state or local laws) or go without helmets. In writing this article, I’m referencing the August 2016 US statistics, presented by the US Department of Transportation.
The Facts Regarding Bicycle Accidents, Injuries, and Fatalities
- In 2015 (the most recent data available), 818 bicyclists were killed on US roads. This number is the highest since 1995. In addition, 45,000 cyclists were injured on US roadways.
- Approximately half of the crashes were during daylight hours.
- Nearly one-fourth of killed cyclists had been drinking.
- 71% of fatalities occurred in urban areas, and 56% were at intersections.
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Bike Helmet Use
The data regarding bicycle helmet use and fatalities is difficult to decipher, because for many of the crashes, we do not have this data. * I’ll reflect only upon fatalities in which helmet use is known.
In 2014, out of 547 bicycle fatalities*, 429 cyclists were not wearing helmets. In 2013, out of out of 591 bicycle fatalities*, 464 cyclists were not wearing helmets. The statistics are similar for each and every year: of cycling fatalities, far more involve bikers who were not wearing helmets. Some cities report even stronger statistics. For example, in New York City, 97% of cyclists killed in bicycle crashes were not wearing a helmet.
The Snell Memorial Foundation considers the risks of head injuries in various sports. In cycling crashes, over 60% of those killed and about 12% of those injured suffered brain injuries. Further, they estimate that 95% of cyclists killed on their bikes in 2006 were not wearing helmets.
I could continue citing facts, data, and statistics, but the trend is very clear. Individuals who cycle without a helmet are far more likely to be killed or severely injured in a crash. As a bicycle accident attorney, I know about helmet safety, but did not know the statistics were so alarming. I am presenting this blog post not to preach or to insist that you wear a helmet, but rather to share these facts with you so that you can make an informed decision.
One more important consideration regarding helmet use is the effects of brain injury. Traumatic brain injury is one of the most devastating effects of bicycle crashes. When we cut our arm or break a bone, our body is capable of healing. We might need to get some stitches or wear a cast, but within a few weeks or months, we are back to normal. Unfortunately, our brain is far less capable of healing.
Traumatic brain injury can range from mild to severe, and can present with a number of disturbing changes. Moderate to severe TBI presents with convulsions, the inability to awaken, aphasia (speech difficulty), muscle and joint weakness, loss of coordination, the inability to concentrate, agitation, severe mood changes, changes in processing speed and function, and cognitive changes. Please understand that these changes are life-altering. Over time, medical treatment and therapies can improve them, but many will suffer these rest of their lives from the devastating effects of TBI.
Life is about calculated risk- nothing is 100 percent safe, and we all take chances each and every day. But when taking chances, it is important to know the risks. If you choose to bike without a helmet, I believe that is your right. But please, do so knowing the risks. Fatalities and severe injuries are far greater for cyclists who do not wear a helmet. Bike helmets are important for cyclist safety.
If you have any questions about bicycle helmets or if you have been involved in a bicycle crash, contact an experienced bicycle injury attorney at Kass & Moses today. Our team is available 24/7 for a 100 percent free consultation. Remember that although the choice may be yours, bike helmets are important for cyclist safety.