As most any parent will tell you, keeping their kids safe is one of their top-most priorities, especially these days with all of the dangers and unknowns that surround us on a daily basis. Being hit by a car while riding one’s bike has always been a concern, for parents as well as anyone who rides a bike regularly in or near traffic. With the number of bicycle-related traffic accidents in cities like Gaithersburg, Bowie and Washington, D.C., it not strange that many cyclists would be overly cautious whenever they go out on the street.
Being personal injury lawyers here in Maryland, we truly understand the value of protective and other safety equipment for bicycle riders, and motorcyclists alike. Protective clothing, helmets and lights are all important factors affecting survival for any bicycle rider or motorcyclist involved in a traffic collision. But sometimes we wonder whether the use of a helmet gives riders a false sense of security, dare we say invulnerability. Whatever the situation, a cyclist should never let down his or her guard simply because they are wearing a helmet. It’s important to remember that other parts of one’s body are also exposed to injury, not just one’s brain.
Of course, closed-head trauma (aka traumatic brain injury) is a major cause of death and paralysis among bicycle and motorcycle riders. This is not in dispute. It’s just that other kinds of injuries can be just as deadly. Applying defensive riding techniques is essential to avoiding a devastating roadway accident while on a bike of any kind. We are bringing this up because of an article we came across recently, reminding us that biking accidents are much more commonplace than one would expect, and often very deadly.
According to the article, nine cyclists died in the Maryland/Washington, D.C., Area, within a one-year period, at the time of the article. It’s possible that since the media tends to focus on whether or not a bicycle rider or motorcyclist was or was not wearing correct head protection, many of the other safety-related messages get lost in the mix. Have bicycle and motorcycle helmets become a cure-all for every possible bike-car collision or motorcycle-truck accident? Possibly. But one thing is certain, there is more to be done in the way of rider and motorist awareness in terms of traffic safety.
Back to the deaths reported in Maryland and the District. According to reports, one of those deaths occurred in Montgomery County, while another happened in the Baltimore area. In the latter case, a car hit and killed a seven-year-old child as he was pedaling his bike out in front of his family’s house in Northwest Baltimore. While that small child reportedly had no helmet, the 40-year-old mountain bike rider who was hit by a motor vehicle and killed in Severna Park, MD, may likely have been wearing one.
Like so many traffic fatalities, various factors are always at play, which makes pinning any specific blame on one or many sometimes difficult. However, it’s been voiced, as in the subject article, that there may need to be a more meaningful way to help promote bicycle safety. Although it sometimes appears that too much focus is directed at helmet use to the exclusion of all else, they are still a key factor in rider survivability. The trick, if one can put it that way, is to hit a balance between safety-related messages so that the other, equally important warnings and safety advice are not lost in translation.
Meanwhile, we can only advise cyclists to be aware of their surroundings at all times and to use caution whenever riding near or in traffic. This goes for children, teens and adults as well, since fate and bad timing make not differentiation where victims of car, bike, motorcycle and trucking accidents are concerned. Stay safe and make it to your destination alive.
At least nine bicyclists of the mid-Atlantic died in traffic this past year, TBD.com, May 8, 2012