As my family and friends know, I am a fanatical bicyclist. I have always enjoyed riding my bike since I started racing as a teenager. I was away from the bike during college and law school but I later returned to the sport in my mid-30’s as a pressure-relief from my hectic work day and as the father of three young kids. Thankfully, my wife shares my bicycling addiction and we enjoy lots of riding time together.
As much as I love riding, it is a sport that carries high risks. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety documents approximately 1,000 bicycle accident deaths per year in the US. The Institute’s statistics also highlight one very important point: “The most serious injuries among a majority of those killed are to the head, highlighting the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet. Helmet use has been estimated to reduce head injury risk by 85 percent.”
A recent case I am handling illustrates the point even more dramatically. Two weeks ago, a local rider from Big Flats, NY was out riding his bicycle on Rt. 352, a local two lane highway, with wide shoulders. Despite the fact that this rider was wearing a high-visibility yellow jersey and was riding on the shoulder of the road (3.1 feet to the right of the white line per the NY State Troopers!), he was mowed down by a driver who recklessly drifted on to the shoulder at 50mph. He was thrown 36 feet and skidded to a stop on his head and right side. Despite his helmet, the flesh was ground from his right ear and skull requiring internal stitches and 12 staples to close the gaping wound. He broke his back. He suffered deep lacerations over his arms, legs, shoulder and back. But he survived….
Although I have handled lots of bicycle/car crash cases over the years, I have never seen a bike exploded apart like this rider’s bike. To say that it is a miracle that he survived this collision is an understatement….
This rider owes his life to his bicycling helmet. The helmet did its job by fracturing in many places thereby preventing his skull from doing the same. I am absolutely convinced that this rider would not be alive today if not for his helmet.
A safety lesson for all of us: Please wear your helmet at all times. Even though NY only requires riders 14 and younger to wear a helmet, EVERYONE should ALWAYS wear a helmet.
If you already have a helmet: Please carefully check your helmet for proper fit and any cracks. Over time helmets can get banged around, subjected to high temperatures in cars, etc. so do not assume that the good helmet you bought 3 years ago is still in perfect shape. If you find cracks or other damage, please buy a new helmet. Helmets are cheap, heads are priceless!
Good luck and safe riding!
James B. Reed, Esq.
Personal Injury & Malpractice Attorney
Ziff, Weiermiller, Hayden & Mustico, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Tel. (607) 733-8866 Fax. (607) 732-6062
Toll Free 1-800-943-3529