What DeKalb County Bicyclists Should Know about Bicycle Helmets
June brings warm weather and summer break for school kids, which means that many kids and families will be biking for exercise, fun and transportation. Because bicyclists do not have much protection when they are struck by negligent motorists in DeKalb County, they need to be extremely alert for drivers who do not appear to be paying attention when approaching intersections or who may be drifting out of their lane because they are distracted by a cell phone. While drivers who are impaired by alcohol, distracted by cell phones or driving recklessly pose a hazard to everyone else on the road, the risk is much more significant for bicyclists.
There are many people injured and even killed in pedalcyclist accidents annually, with children age 14 and under being especially vulnerable. During a recent twelve month period, 52,000 people were injured in cycling accidents with nearly one in five of those injured being kids age 14 and younger according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This makes bicycle accidents one of the leading causes of injury for young children. There also are hundreds of people that die annually in bicycle crashes. In addition to the injuries and deaths that would be avoided by universal bicycle helmet laws in every state, it is estimated that the average annual cost of bicycle accident-related injuries and fatalities is approximately $8 billion.
The NHTSA and other bicycle safety groups strongly recommend the use of helmets to reduce the risk of traumatic head injuries and fatalities related to head injuries. Because the federal agency estimates that helmets are as much as 88 percent effective at preventing head trauma, protective head gear represents the best way to avoid serious brain injuries and fatalities in bicycle collisions. The vital role of helmets for pedalcyclists is evidenced by the fact that nearly seven in every ten fatal bicycle accidents involve a head injury. Tragically, less than a quarter of all cyclists actually wear a bike helmet.
Despite this unequivocal evidence regarding the benefits of bicycle helmets, there are still a significant minority of states that have no bicycle helmet law at all and others that only require helmets for kids under the age of 16. Georgia is one of the states that only require bicyclists 16 and under to wear helmets.
The bottom line is that wearing a helmet can mitigate the injuries suffered when a bicyclist is struck by a negligent driver. Although a personal injury victim has a duty to mitigate damages, Georgia law does not consider a pedalcyclist’s failure to wear a bicycle helmet as negligence or failure to mitigate damages. However, most people would rather prevent serious head injuries than be compensated for their pain and suffering, medical bills and disability so a bicycle helmet is a prudent option.
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