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Bike Helmets and Safety

Bicycle Helmets Provide Safety in Close Calls

Imagine you're enjoying a leisurely bike ride one afternoon, when a pickup truck passes so closely by you that its mirror strikes your upper arm. The impact causes you to wobble but isn't strong enough to knock you off your bike, and the truck drives away. Though you're left with a nasty bruise, you're otherwise unhurt.

Aside from the disturbing fact that someone could strike a cyclist with their vehicle and then drive away, a close call like this underscores the need for a bike helmet.

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Even though a cyclist takes every precaution to ride safely, incidents like this can and do happen, resulting in varying degrees of injury. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 50,000 cyclists are injured in traffic crashes each year. Two percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities are cyclists.

If you're new to cycling or are in the habit of riding without a helmet, these statistics might alarm you; however, if you follow some basic safety guidelines and use the right protective equipment (such as a helmet), you can reduce your chances of becoming a statistic.

Health Benefits of Cycling

Anyone who cycles regularly can tell you that cycling is great exercise. As an aerobic activity, cycling increases your heart activity, boosts your circulation, and gives your lungs a good workout. It's also low-impact, which is easier on your joints than many other forms of exercise. You breathe more deeply, work up a good sweat, and increase your body temperature, all of which serve to improve your overall fitness level.

People who cycle regularly also enjoy:

  • Improved cardiovascular fitness
  • Improved muscle strength and flexibility
  • Improved joint mobility
  • Improved posture and coordination
  • Stronger bones
  • Lower levels of body fat
  • Increased ability to ward off illness and/or manage disease
  • Increased mental acuity
  • Reduced stress, anxiety, and depression

Bicyclists and Head Injuries

Even with all the health benefits of cycling, there can be a dangerous side - the risks you take when you take to the roads on two wheels.

Cyclists must take additional precautions when they hit the road, since they're sharing the pavement with vehicles that are much heavier, larger, and quicker than themselves. Drivers don't always pay proper attention to cyclists on the road, and put riders in peril by not giving them the same courtesy that other vehicles receive.

In fact, in 2014, more than a half million people were sent to the emergency room for injuries suffered on a bicycle - a number second only to injuries from basketball, and far ahead of injuries from playing football.

While road rash, broken bones, gashes, and facial injuries are common, the most common injury suffered in a cycling accident is brain injury. In a majority of cycling crashes, the cyclist is catapulted over the handlebars with little control over the way he or she lands. Such a crash can have devastating results, particularly if your head is unprotected.

There are varying degrees of brain injury, from a mild concussion to a life-altering TBI, and one of the best ways to prevent or lessen the severity of such an injury is through the use of a helmet. Bicycle helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by 60% and the risk of brain injury by 58%.

Fitting a Bike Helmet

Not all bike helmets are created equal, however. Don't let the price be the main factor in your decision - more expensive isn't always better, and vice versa. The best helmet for you is one that fits properly, provides the necessary cushioning, and is comfortable enough that you will wear it every time you get on a bike.

To select the right helmet for your needs, follow these steps:

  • Measure your head. Use a flexible fabric tape measure to measure the circumference of your head at its largest part, typically about one inch above your eyebrows. Select a helmet size based on this measurement.
  • Position your helmet. The helmet should sit level on your head (not tilted back or forward), approximately one to two finger widths above your eyebrows.
  • Adjust the side straps. These straps should form a "V" under and slightly in front of your ears.
  • Position the chin buckle. The buckle for the chin strap should rest underneath, in the center of your chin.
  • Adjust the chin strap. The chin strap should be snug against your chin, with only enough room to insert one or two fingers between the strap and your chin.
  • Check the final fitting. Open your mouth wide, as in a yawn; the helmet should pull down on your head with this motion. Test the fit of the helmet by trying to rock it back and forth on your head. If the helmet moves more than one inch forward or backward on your head, readjust the straps. Once you have determined that the helmet is properly fitted to your head, lock the straps with the mechanisms provided to prevent slippage.

Bicycle helmets in the U.S. must meet the standards set forth by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). Before you purchase a helmet, make sure it has a certification label inside identifying it as certified for use as a bike helmet.

May is National Bike Month, and a great time to get out on the road with your bike.

By following the rules of the road, riding safely, and using the right protective equipment, you can improve your fitness level and enjoy the great outdoors. The Tri-State is filled with scenic rides, both easy and challenging. Riding with a helmet is one way to assure you get to enjoy every mile.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a cycling accident, you may want to speak with an attorney with experience in bicycle accidents in order to preserve your legal rights. Your attorney will examine the facts of your case to determine if you need legal guidance, and can navigate the legal system on your behalf. Don't let a cycling accident rob you of your legal rights - contact Gerling Law!

Don't forget - Gerling Law provides bicycle helmets free of charge to children under the age of 16 in the Tri-State area. Riders who begin using helmets at an early age are more likely to keep using helmets as they become adults. If you would like a free bicycle helmet for your child, contact Gerling Law at 812-423-5251.

(updated May 24, 2016)

Bike Helmet Giveaway to Tekoppel School's 4th Grade Class

We were happy to join Tekoppel Elementary School and give out helmets to the fourth grade class. Here are some pictures of our team making sure they were a perfect fit.

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