Baltimore Traffic Injury Update: Steps to Reduce the Risk of Injury When Cycling in Maryland

As most parents will attest, seeing one’s child become old enough to ride a bike can be both satisfying and nerve-racking at the same time. Especially these days in cities like Rockville, Annapolis and Washington, D.C., that are densely packed and fraught with potential dangers, parents would be justified in their worry. As Maryland personal injury lawyers and auto accident attorneys, we understand these fears; and if something does go wrong, we try to help the victims and their families recover loses following an accident caused by a negligent driver.

Naturally, as we’ve stated many times, prevention is a much more proactive way to avoid an injury or save a life than trying to put the pieces back together after a severe traffic collision. Especially in the case of cycling and pedestrian accidents, protecting oneself and preparing for the worst beats reacting once the damage is done.

For bikers, there are a number of preventative measures that can make a difference if and when a traffic wreck does happen to a cyclist. Some may argue that if a person rides long enough it is only a matter of time before a rider is hit by a car or commercial truck. In the city, delivery vehicles and large box trucks can be the enemies of the commuting cyclist.

Of course, there is still a relatively large segment of the cycling community that maintains that riding a bike next to other vehicular traffic, such as passenger cars, SUVs and commercial trucks, is not as death-defying as some might make it out to be. These folks will argue, with a fair amount of statistical evidence to back them up, that cyclists are not injured by motor vehicles as often as they are injured through inattention to roadway conditions or other factors that might cause a solo crash.

These safety advocates maintain that bikers are much less likely to be killed by a car or truck hitting them from behind; rather they are more likely to be injured by events involving distracted pedestrians, people walking their dogs, kids and adults on inline skates, or an encounter with another cyclist having lesser riding skills.

Regardless, there are steps that every cyclist should take to avoid the worst-case scenario, that of being injured or killed on their bike. Perhaps the following tips might help better prepare riders for that unforeseen accident in the future, be it a solo bike crash, a pedestrian-related collision or a motor vehicle collision.

From a legal perspective, that of following the rules of the road and other traffic-related laws, it should be known that bicycle riders must use turn signals when on public roads; and it doesn’t hurt to use them on bike paths and other non-motor vehicle roadways. This is to say that cyclists have a legal obligation to signal a turn (unless the act of signaling might cause them to fall off or otherwise lose control of their bicycle.

Another phrase to live by is, “Use common sense when riding.” Although this may seem like stating the obvious, it’s never a good idea to ride drunk. But even as we say this, understand that a good 30 percent of all cycling fatalities involve alcohol. According to experts, one-third of fatal cycling crashes result from a rider being legally intoxicated.

Another important rule that sometimes goes unheeded is riding with vehicular traffic, not against it. At the same time, stay as far to the right as possible without hitting the rough edge of the roadway, which could possibly cause a loss of control.

Also, always use a helmet and never ride with headphones or earbuds on and listening to music or other loud audio programming. A person’s sense of hearing is one of the numerous defensive systems available to cyclists and should not be compromised.

There are, of course, many more safety tips and suggestions available online. Staying informed is a rider’s best opportunity to avoid injury and possibly death. Just ask anyone who’s ever been hurt while biking; they probably have a wealth of knowledge to share.

How bicyclists can reduce risk of accident,, August 1, 2011

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