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Bicycle Accidents: The Basics

The popularity of bicycling for health, recreation and transportation has been steadily on the rise as is evidenced by the trend towards bike lanes and hiker/biker paths in communities throughout the U.S. Bicycle accidents, many of which result in a fatality, are a significant concern for bike riders of all ages, especially those who ride in urban areas. As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 700 bicyclists die in accidents each year and another half million find themselves in hospital emergency rooms.

Common Causes of Bike Accidents

When motor vehicles and bicycles share the road, accidents caused by distracted or inattentive drivers, driving or riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol, failure to obey the rules of the road, and inexperienced riders are the most common scenarios.

Visibility plays a major role in accidents between bicycles and motor vehicles. Vehicles turning right at intersections may not see a cyclist approaching on the right and cars exiting parking lots or driveways frequently do not see a rider until it is too late. Wearing bright colors and reflective material even during daylight hours help make riders more visible on the roadway.

Biking Rules of the Road

Following the rules of the road is as important to biking as it is to driving a car. Cyclists should ride either in marked bike lanes or if not available, on the right, going the same direction as the rest of the traffic. As a safety measure and courtesy to other vehicles, cyclists are required to stop at red lights and stop signs. It is also advisable to be cautious before going through an intersection on a yellow light. When travelling in the center of a lane due to a narrow roadway or lack of shoulder, use hand signals when turning or coming to a stop.

Bike Safety and Accident Prevention

Adhering to the rules of the road and staying observant goes along way towards minimizing accidents but should an accident happen, wearing a helmet is a rider's best protection against fatal significant head trauma. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute reports that in 2006 fully 95% of bike accident fatalities involved riders who were not wearing a helmet. Accident prevention programs and rider safety courses are available in through recreation departments around the country as well as through cycling groups and the Internet.