Riding a bicycle is an easy way to enjoy the outdoors. Most bike riders enjoy the exercise, fun and freedom that comes from cycling. Some ride as a form of transportation, some ride as a form of exercise and others ride as a form of entertainment—and none of these categories is mutually exclusive.
While bike riding is generally a safe activity, it does come with risks, especially when riding on public roadways. In California, cyclists generally have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of vehicles (California Vehicle Code Section 21200). This means they can ride on most public roadways (but not, for example, on most freeways or expressways). However, when bicycles and motor vehicles share the same space, collisions can occur.
With collisions come injuries, and a common injury in serious bike accidents is traumatic brain injury (TBI). The Mayo Clinic describes a traumatic brain injury as the result of an external mechanical force causing brain dysfunction. TBI is described as mild, with temporary dysfunction, or moderate to severe, with longer lasting (and even permanent) physical and cognitive symptoms.
March is brain injury awareness month, a time when the Brain Injury Association of America tries to increase recognition and understanding of traumatic brain injuries, including the causes, such as bike accidents. Lawyers are among the sponsors of research into causes of and treatment for traumatic brain injuries, perhaps because they see up close the devastation to individuals and families that can result from severe traumatic brain injuries.
One tool that is recommended to prevent traumatic brain injuries from bicycle crashes is a bicycle helmet. While the research is inconclusive on the extent to which bike helmets protect against traumatic brain injuries, there is enough evidence that they prevent more serious injuries that California requires children to wear bike helmets. California Vehicle Code Section 21212 says
(a) A person under 18 years of age shall not operate a bicycle, a nonmotorized scooter, or a skateboard, nor shall they wear in-line or roller skates, nor ride upon a bicycle, a nonmotorized scooter, or a skateboard as a passenger, upon a street, bikeway, as defined in Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, or any other public bicycle path or trail unless that person is wearing a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet that meets the standards of either the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), or standards subsequently established by those entities. This requirement also applies to a person who rides upon a bicycle while in a restraining seat that is attached to the bicycle or in a trailer towed by the bicycle.
In 2015, a bill was introduced in the California Senate to require all bicyclists, including adult riders, to wear a helmet. California’s bicycle advocacy groups and many others opposed the bill, despite the fact that between 2008 and 2012, collisions involving bike riders in California rose 18%.
Senate bill 192 did not pass, even though some studies show that if a bike rider suffers a head injury, the risk of the injury being a severe traumatic brain injury is reduced by half when the rider wears a helmet. The research, published in the American Journal of Surgery, was based on an analysis of more than 6,000 people who were treated for bleeding inside the skull following a bike crash. The 2012 data was from the American College of Surgeons’ National Trauma Data Bank. The research showed that riders wearing helmets had a 44% lower risk of death and 31% lower risk of facial fractures.
While wearing a bicycle helmet does not prevent injuries, research shows that helmets do a good job of protecting against the most severe harms that can follow a bike accident. Lawyers, a group that tends to mitigate risks, therefor recommend that cyclist wear helmets if possible, and that all children wear bike helmets as required by the law.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a bicycle crash, call the bike accident lawyers at Cerritos Legal today at 562-865-9356 for your free consultation.
photo credit: Richard Mason via Creative Commons.