This past Sunday at 9:38 pm, a woman making a turn from West Street onto Montgomery Street in Danbury, CT struck a 7-year old boy on a bicycle. Tragically, the injuries resulted in the death of this young man. This devastating accident should give us cause to stop and think about the perils of bicycle riding and the dangerous and sometimes fatal consequences that can result.
Nationally in 2009, over 51,000 cyclists were injured and 630 of those people were killed. In Connecticut, there is an average of 289 injuries and 8 deaths every year involving bicyclists. Fatality and injury rates in Connecticut are highest for males ages 5 to 19. To help avoid accidents, cyclists should do at least the following:
- Always wear protective head gear- It is required by law for children and provides much need protection from head injuries;
- Wear reflective or bright clothing- This will allow you to be visible in even dimly lit situations;
- Make sure you can safely operate a bicycle before heading out on the streets. Inexperienced cyclists should get the necessary training and experience before heading out on the open roads;
- Be hypersensitive to others on the roadway- Biking on public roads can be very distracting. Noise and traffic from automobiles and pedestrians can sometimes be quite distracting. Motor vehicle operators sometimes have trouble seeing cyclists because of their less visible nature which can result in dangerous situations. Therefore it is always important that you expect the unexpected;
- Follow the Law- Make sure you learn and comply with all laws related to bicycle use, the bulk of which are designed to protect you;
- Wear a light- A constant headlight is mandatory when biking on roadways at night. A light on ones head or helmet is preferable, as it can be pointed directly at a driver by looking at them. Also, having reflectors makes one more visible at night however riding at night should be avoided whenever possible;
- Get a horn- While not mandated by law, having a horn or bell on your bicycle, louder than your voice, could save your life in an emergency. Don't be afraid to use one; and
- Watch out for car doors- one of the most common types of bike accidents is running into open car doors. Ride far enough away from parked cars or slow enough to stop in time if one is swung open.
By taking much needed precautions, being ever mindful of how dangerous bike riding can be and not underestimating our children's inexperience in riding a bicycle we can potentially reduce bicycle accidents, injuries and even fatalities.