Having two young daughters, I recently have had the pleasure of teaching them to ride a two wheeler for the first time. Not much has changed since I was a little boy. The experience brought back the fond memory of the first time that my father taught me to master the art of the two wheeler. Looking back our teachings were virtually identical except my children have bicycle helmets that are now required by Florida law for all riders under 16 years of age. This simple, brilliant safety law has created consumer awareness of the dangers of head injuries riding a bicycle that should be obvious.
Researching bicycle helmets I learned that about 66.9 million Americans ride bicycles and each year over 600,000 people are treated in emergency departments (EDs) for bicycle-related injuries. Unfortunately, over 800 people die from bicycle accidents each year. Head injury is the most common cause of death and serious disability in bicycle related crashes; head injuries are involved in about 60 percent of the deaths, and 30 percent of the bicycle-related ED visits. Many of these nonfatal head injuries produce lifelong disability from irreversible brain damage. Societal costs associated with bicycle related head injury or death resulting from head injury were more than $3 billion annually.
American children, in particular, are avid bicyclists and an estimated 33 million children ride bicycles nearly 10 billion hours each year. Unfortunately, an average of 384 children die annually from bicycle crashes, and 450,000 more are treated in EDs for bicycle-riding related injuries. Each year about 153,000 children get treatment in hospital emergency departments for bicycle-related head injuries.
Bicycle helmets are proven to reduce the risk of bicycle-related head injury by about 80 percent, yet bicycle helmets are not worn by most riders. Only 19 percent of adults and 15 percent of children use helmets all or most of the time while cycling. These statistics are courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and they prognosticate that the universal use of bicycle helmets by children aged 4 through 15 years old would prevent between 135 and 155 deaths, between 39,000 and 45,000 head injuries, and between 18,000 and 55,000 scalp and face injuries annually.
My message is simple. Please help shine a light on the danger of head injury while bicycle riding by wearing a helmet and telling others to wear one too. I lead by example and wear a helmet every time that I ride my bicycle. So does my family. It is like wearing a seatbelt when you ride in a car. Everybody should do it. No excuses. Through awareness and charitable efforts every child should be able to afford a bicycle helmet. I actively participate in a bicycle helmet donation program called Heads In Helmets aimed at making helmets available and educating the parents that are teaching their children to ride. After all it is the law in Florida and most states across our country. If even one reader of this article made sure that their family wears a bicycle helmet we can prevent a head injury.
Sam Coffey, Esq. Fort Lauderdale, FL Practice Limited to Plaintiff’s Personal Injury, Products Liability and Wrongful Death