"People tend to engage in risky behavior when they are protected," he said. "It's a ubiquitous human trait."
Even cyclists who discount the daredevil effect admit that they may ride faster on more dangerous streets when they are wearing their helmets.
On May 5, Noah Budnick, a 24-year old New York resident, was wearing a helmet and cycling on Avenue B in Manhattan when he had to pull out from the side of the street to avoid a double-parked car and a taxicab idling behind it. As he moved to the left, the cab pulled out, striking Mr. Budnick. He broke his fall with his hands and did not hit his head on the ground, but the accident left him with a deep cut on his leg and a badly strained knee.
Although the cab was at fault for the accident, Mr. Budnick said, if he had been riding more slowly he might not have had the accident.
"I probably would have ridden more cautiously and less aggressively without the helmet," he said. "I don't know if I would ride in Manhattan at the speed I was going."
Still, many cycling advocates contend that is is not bicyclists but drivers who are more reckless. Distractions like cell phones have made drivers less attentive, they say, and congestion is making roads more dangerous for cyclists. They also believe that some drivers of sport utility vehicles and other trucks simply drive too close to cyclists.
Brendan Batson, a 16-year old high school sophomore in central Maine, had been knocked off the road twice by drivers, so as he entered the home stretch of a 60-mile ride on May 26, he was wearing his helmet. But as he passed through Norridgewock, Me. riding along the shoulder of a rural highway, a pickup truck struck him from behind. It hit Brendan with enough force to rip the helmet from his head, the straps gouging his face before tearing off. Brendan was dragged alone the road, past a friend he was cycling with, then thrown to the side. He was killed instantly.
It is difficult to show statistically that drivers have become more reckless in the last decade. The percentage of fatal bicycle accidents that involved cars has declined, falling from 87 percent in 1991 to 83 percent in 1998, according to the C.D.C.
Thom Parks, a vice president in charge of safety for the helmet maker Bell Sports, said safety standards could be upgraded and helmets could be designed to meet them. But that would make helmets heavier, bulkier and less comfortable. "There are limits to what a consumer would accept," Mr. Parks said, adding that if helmets became bigger, fewer people might wear them.
Dr. James P. Kelly, a neurologist and a concussion expert at Northwestern University Medical School, said that even as helmets were currently designed, patients who were wearing them when they were injured were much better off than those who were not.
"Bicycle helmet technology is the best we have for protecting the brain," Dr. Kelly said. "The helmets serve the function of an air bag."
But the most effective way to reduce sever head injuries may be to decrease the number of accidents in the first place.
"Over the past several decades, society has come to equate safety with helmets," said Charles Komanoff, the co-founder of Right of Way, an organization that promotes the rights of cyclists and pedestrians. "But wearing a helmet does not prevent crashes."
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Wear a Helmet
- Wearing a helmet is the best thing you can do to be safe when you ride a bike.
- Bicycle helmets save lives. Most bike deaths come from head injury. Bike helmets can
prevent head injury.
- In some states, the law says you have to wear a bike helmet to ride your bike.
- Bike helmets should fit like this: 1) sits evenly between the ears 2) sits low on your forehead
See and Be Seen
- Ride so cars can see you.
- Wear bright colors or clothes that reflect light
- at night so cars, buses, and trucks can see you.
- If you ride at night, get a headlight for the front of your bike
and "reflectors" on the front and back of your bike.
Follow the Rules
- Bikes have to follow the same traffic rules and signs as cars.
- You must ride in the same direction as the cars are going.
- Ride your bike single-file.
- Signal when you want to stop or turn.
- Look out for holes, wet leaves, or cracks in the street. They can make you crash your bike.
- Ride away from the curb in case a car pulls out or someone opens a car door suddenly.
For additional information, please contact the NHTSA hotline at:
1-888-DASH-2-DOT (1-888-327-4236), or the NHTSA Web site.
U.S. Department of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
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Did you know that each year 550,000 people require medical treatment due to bicycle crashes, and 950 people die? Six hundred are children. Approximately 80 percent of the deaths result from a brain injury. Each year nearly 50,000 bicyclists suffer serious head injuries. Many never recover. The proper helmet can reduce head injuries by 85 percent. Play it safe on your bicycle with these easy rules from Safe America and Kaldworld:
- Keep your bicycle in good working order by checking the tires, making sure the seat is secure and the chain is oiled and tight. Handlebars should be tight with grips on both handles and brakes should work smoothly and quickly.
- Take a safety course. One organization offering courses for all ages is the League of American Bicyclists at 410-539-3399.
- Place reflectors on the front, rear sides and pedals.
- Cycle defensively. Expect a car to pull out from the side street or turn left in front of you.
- Cycle with the flow of traffic, never against it. If traffic is heavy, walk your bike across an intersection.
- Leave at least three feet of distance when passing parked cars to avoid doors being opened.
- Always wear an approve helmet (ASAI or SNELL). Select a helmet that fits snugly and sits flat on your head.
The Safe America Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to injury prevention and the practice of good safety habits through the distribution of safety products and innovative educational programs. For more information call: 770-218-0071 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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May is Bike Month--Think Safety!
Turn your calendar to May and mark it "Bike Month!" Circle the third week-- it has been devoted to
bicycle safety! For many people, spring begins the shift in activities from inside to outside; and bicycling
is a popular choice.
Did you know it takes years for children to gain the judgment, balance, skill, and knowledge they
need to ride safely?
Did you know setting a good example by obeying traffic rules and wearing a helmet is one of the
best ways to encourage a child to do the same?
Did you know you could contact your state Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator or your local
SAFE KIDS Coalition to find out about bicycle education programs and activities in your
Celebrate spring with a bicycle safety event for children in your community and involve as many groups
and organizations as possible. Some ideas for events include bicycle helmet fittings, bike safety
demonstrations, bike safety check-ups, bike rodeos or bike skills development workshops. You probably
have your own ideas for a community-wide bicycle safety event. There are many national organizations
with resources to help you. The League of American Bicyclists, Bicycle Federation of America, Bicycle
Helmet Safety Institute, National SAFE KIDS Campaign, and the National Safety Council can assist in
your plans. You can contact each agency through the Bike Hub website at
Federal safety agencies can also provide technical assistance to help make your "bike month" activity
successful. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Highway
Administration and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) can provide free bicycle safety
materials developed for young and adult bicyclists. CPSC recently approved a new federal safety standard
for bicycle helmets, effective in spring, 1999. The new standard ensures that all helmets must meet the
minimum safety levels that are very similar to the current ASTM and Snell standards seen labeled inside
You could be living in a state or city with a bicycle helmet law and not even know it. Currently, there are
fifteen states that have "age specific" laws: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia,
Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and
West Virginia. Many municipalities and localities require helmet use. Check with your local law
enforcement office to see if there is a law in your community. Law enforcement encourages helmet use
and many departments reward children for correctly wearing bicycle helmets by providing free or discount
Be active! You will find that people want to help you. Remember, if we can teach bike riders to avoid
painful mistakes, we all win! So, make May memorable. Help someone develop safe biking habits for
Brought to you by the National Bicycle Safety
The goal of the National Bicycle Safety
Network is to help coordinate efforts among government, private, non-profit,
and research organizations to improve bicycling safety and increase safe
bicycle use. It will strive to reduce the number of bicycle injuries by
promoting bicycle safety through public education, information-sharing among
member organizations, and appropriate environmental changes.
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Prevent Bicycle Crashes
A MESSAGE FOR PARENTS
- A bicycle is not a toy. It's a vehicle!
- More than one-third of all bicyclist deaths occur among school age youth ages five to 20.
- Most bicycle crashes involving motor vehicles are due to behavioral errors on the part of the bicyclist and motorist.
- Although most deaths occur as a result of bicycle and motor vehicle crashes, crashes can happen anywhere - in parks, on bicycle paths, and in driveways. Many do not involve motor vehicles.
- Head injuries are the most serious type of injury and the most common cause of death for bicyclists.
- Studies have proven that bicycle helmets work to reduce head injury.
- Fifteen states and over 50 counties, cities, and localities have enacted bicycle helmet use laws.
Approximately 800 bicyclists are killed, and 60,000 are injured in motor vehicle-related crashes.
Hospital emergency rooms treat 500,000 bicycle-related injuries.
HOW TO HELP STOP FATALITIES AND INJURIES
- Insist that your child wear a helmet every time he/she rides a bicycle. Replace the helmet if it has been damaged.
- Let your child choose a helmet. Make sure it has a sticker indicating that it meets Snell Memorial Foundation or American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards.
- Instruct your child on the correct way to wear a helmet. Make sure it fits snugly and covers the forehead.
- Set a good example. Wear a helmet yourself.
- Notice when your child wears a helmet correctly and praise him/her.
Bicycle helmets are the best protection against mishaps that cause death or injury.
- Check your child's bicycle for correct fit, properly working parts, and reflectors.
- Teach your child to look left-right-left before entering the roadway or intersection.
- Avoid allowing your child to ride at night, as drivers often miss seeing cyclists.
- Never let a child ride a bicycle while listening to audio
- Stress the need to ride defensively since many drivers do not see bicyclists.
- Bicyclists should ride single file on the right side of the road -just like cars -and signal their intentions to other road users
- Check with driver licensing agencies and highway departments for booklets that explain bicycle safety rules.
- Enroll your child in a bicycle safety education program if one is available in your community.