Bicycling is one of the most popular recreational activities in the United States. Children love to ride bikes for fun or for transportation to a friend’s house or to school. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 2008 estimated that by second grade as much as 80-90% of children in the United States own a bicycle. Although cycling is great exercise and a convenient way to travel for children, it is a dangerous activity that results in many serious injuries to children. If a car is involved in an accident with your child and his or her bike, the injuries can be devastating and life altering.
The importance of bicycle safety cannot be underestimated. The CDC states that children between the ages of 5 and 14 years, adolescents, and young adults between the ages of 15 and 24 years, have the highest rates of nonfatal bicycle-related injuries. These age groups account for almost 60% of all bicycle-related injuries seen in U.S. emergency departments. Thirteen percent of bicycle-related deaths occur in those 14 and younger.
According to the 2008 Alabama Traffic Crash Facts, there were 182 bicycle crash injuries and four fatalities in Alabama. That same year, children 14 and under accounted for 27% of the bicycle crash injuries.
Officials at Children’s of Alabama hospital announced in 2012 that children with severe injuries due to bicycle crashes remained at an elevated level at the facility for the third straight year. One hundred and thirty one children visited their emergency room with injuries from bicycle wrecks. Twenty-four of those kids had injuries that were bad enough to require “trauma code”. A trauma code is used to alert medical staff to the presence of an emergency. The number of trauma codes in 2008 and 2009 was only 15.
Children suffer various injuries from accidents involving bicycles. There are “overuse” injuries and “traumatic” injuries. Overuse injuries are those that are just what they sound like. Lots and lots of bike riding can cause tendonitis, chafing, and lower back pain. Traumatic injuries are those usually caused by an accident, collision or fall from a bike. Motor vehicles are the cause of about one-third of all bike crash accidents.
Bicycle Related Injuries in Alabama
Because a child is unprotected from the elements while riding a bicycle, they are vulnerable to severe injury if an accident occurs. The most common trauma injuries to bike riders according to the American Academy of Family Physicians are:
Head – skull fracture, concussion, brain contusion, intracranial hemorrhage
Face and Eye – contusions, facial fractures, dental fractures, corneal foreign bodies
Musculoskeletal – Fractures, dislocation, strains, broken bones
Chest – rib fractures, lung injury
Abdomen – ruptured spleen, liver laceration, kidney bruising, pancreatic trauma, vascular perforation, hernia
Geniturinary – Urethral and vulvarl trauma, genital trauma, rectal trauma, pelvic fracture
Bicycle and Car Accidents
It is not hard to imagine the damage that a large automobile can cause to a child on a bike. Your child may be the victim of a bicycle accident with a car, and you know how life can change. Traumatic brain injuries in particular can result in a lifetime of physical and developmental disabilities for your child and a lifetime of medical costs to you. If a driver hits your child on a bike, you will need to determine whether the driver was negligent or reckless in some way. If so, he may be liable for your child’s injuries, and you may be entitled to monetary compensation to cover your child’s medical needs and more.
It is sometimes difficult to determine liability in accidents involving bicycles. When determining fault, there are several factors to consider. Was the child riding in a designated bike pathway? Was the car speeding or violating the law? Data about the traffic light schedules, previous accident history and the line of travel for the person at fault must be collected. The bike accident attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt have experience investigating cases involving children and bike accidents. We can assist you in gathering information and assessing whether you have a claim for damages against the driver. Our team also knows how to navigate large insurance companies. Our child injury attorneys will work hard for you to secure the best possible results for your child.
Safety Tips to Help Avoid Serious Injury
You can help your child stay safe and avoid a bike injury by sharing safety information with them. Here are some important basic tips for all riders to follow:
Wear a helmet. If you have a child 16 or younger they are required by Alabama law to wear a helmet. The helmet should meet safety standards of the American National Standards Institute or the Snell Memorial Foundation. Alabama state law states that a parent or guardian that knowingly allows a child under the age of 16 to ride a bike without a helmet will be subject to consequences, and the act is considered a misdemeanor.
Be visible. Wear bright clothing or retro-reflective gear when there is not much daylight. Try not to ride at night.
Obey traffic rules and laws. Ride on the right-hand side of the street, so you travel in the same direction as cars do. Never ride against traffic. Ride single file on the street with friends. Stop at all stop signs and obey traffic (red) lights just as cars do. Always cross at intersections. Walk your bike across busy intersections using the crosswalk and following traffic signals.
Stay alert. Watch out for things in your path like potholes, cracks, grates. Be extra careful in wet weather. Always check for traffic.
Check your brakes. Brakes are the most important part of the bicycle. Control your speed by using your brakes; apply rear brakes slightly before the front hand brakes. In wet weather, ride slowly and apply brakes earlier.