After our seemingly endless winter, summer is now suddenly right around the corner. With the warmer weather, it’s normal to see an increase in cyclists on the streets and roads – and a higher number of cars, too. This means that cyclists and motorists alike need to be aware of the heightened traffic as they enjoy the roads we all share.
Cyclists, not being protected by seat belts and a bubble of steel, are particularly vulnerable to serious injury when involved in an accident. The Center for Disease Control notes that although only 1% of all trips in the U.S. are taken by bike, nearly 800 cyclists were killed in bike accidents in 2010. An estimated 515,000 more cyclists visited emergency rooms across the nation for bike-related injuries.
Although motorists should be fully alert to and respectful of cyclists on the road, cyclists must take affirmative steps to protect their own safety. As an injury lawyer in Albany, I know how devastating and far-reaching the consequences of bike accidents can be. Neglecting to observe safety standards just aren’t worth the risk.
Here are 5 ways to stay accident-free while cycling this summer.
Make sure drivers have no excuse for saying “they didn’t see you” by equipping your bike with reflectors and lights and wearing bright, reflective clothing. Reflective clothing is particularly essential when riding at night. A 2013 study by a researcher at Queensland University of Technology in Australia found that cyclists wearing high-visibility but non-reflective clothing were more likely to be stuck by a car in low-light conditions than those cyclists wearing reflective clothing.
CYH (Cover Your Head)
In New York, all riders under the age 14 must wear helmet when riding a bike. When the state first introduced this law back in 1994, the following year showed a substantial decrease in bicycle-related traumatic brain injuries within the relevant age group, falling from 464 to 209.
While there’s much debate about the whether helmets make a difference for adults, and there’s no law requiring adults to wear helmets, it may make a vital difference in the gravity of your injuries in the event of a bike accident. In addition, if you are involved in an accident, wearing a helmet can help demonstrate to insurance companies – or courts – that you took every precaution to be safe and minimize your injuries.
Ditch the earbuds or headphones
It’s against the law in New York for cyclists (or motorists) to wear headphones or earbuds in both ears while on the road. Although it’s legal to wear one earbud – and fun to cycle while listening to music – I strongly advocate packing your sound system away until you reach your destination. Cyclists need to be alert to as many traffic cues in their surroundings as possible. Having both ears free heightens your sensorial input and can help you react quickly to dangerous situations.
Scan, scan, scan
Constantly scanning the road for potential hazards is a must when cycling. It can help you avoid “dooring” accidents (the unexpected opening of a parked car door), crashes with parked or moving vehicles, and alert you to rough or uneven terrain ahead, such as sand, gravel, glass or water. It also gives motorists clues to actions that you’re about to take, such as when you’re considering changing lanes or making a turn. Scanning may seem like a natural ability, but it takes a certain amount of skill. Cyclists should be able to scan the road behind them by looking over their shoulder without letting the bike swerve. You should also learn to make eye contact with drivers while scanning to ensure that they see you.
Bikes are vehicles and should follow the rules of the road accordingly. Obey traffic lights and road signals, and don’t weave in and out of traffic. Also be sure to bike in a straight line and to signal well in advance of when you’re about to turn or change lanes. When there’s an obstacle, avoid it as calmly as you can: sudden, jerky movements can catch others on the road by surprise and lead to unintended and unfortunate consequences.
If you or someone you love has had a cycling accident, you should have an experienced attorney to help protect your right to compensation. Call me, Paul Giannetti, at (866) 868-2960, or contact me online.
Photo Credit: moriza cc