The United States Census Bureau reports that, between 2002 and 2012, bicycles were the fastest-growing mode of commuter transportation. When you think about it, this is not so surprising. Bicycling is a great source of exercise. It saves money on gas and reduces the amount of pollutants emitted into the air. However, for all the positives of commuting by bike, cyclists remain vulnerable to injuries in a crash. Helmets and protective clothing help mitigate the danger, but cyclists remain at risk for serious injuries from bicycle accidents. These can range from simple scrapes and bruises to broken bones, head injuries. In a serous wreck, the injuries can even prove fatal.
Examples of injuries which commonly occur in a bicycle crash include:
- Broken bones: Any bone can be broken in a bicycle crash, but fractures to the upper extremities are among the most common. This is because a cyclists often reflexively extend their arm or hand to break a fall, frequently resulting in a broken wrist, finger, arm, or elbow.
- Dental and jaw injuries: Bicycle helmets protect the head, but do not cover the face, mouth and jaw as would a “Full face” helmet used by a motorcyclist. As such, injuries can include cuts to the lips, cheeks, and tongue, broken or chipped teeth, or a broken jaw, and can require extensive dental procedures.
- Head injuries: Cyclists often suffer head lacerations, skull fractures, and traumatic brain injuries. Wearing a helmet can mitigate some injuries, but the risk of serious injury remains. Anytime a rider hits their head in a bicycle accident, they should seek immediate medical attention.
- Joint dislocation: This type of injury occurs when there is a separation in the joint where two bones meet. It can cause intense pain, swelling, and bruising. Only a trained medical professional should return the joint to its normal position. Splints or bandages help hold the joint in place as it heals.
- Neck injuries: The sudden impact of a collision can affect the cyclist’s neck resulting in a variety of injuries. Neck pain, stiffness or “radiating” pain or numbness to the arms or hands can signify injury.
- Nerve damage: Some injuries can cause chronic nerve damage, affecting the arms, finger, legs, and toes. Physical therapy may help alleviate certain symptoms, but numbness and pain can be permanent.
- Paralysis: In extreme cases, an injury is so severe that it causes the victims to become paralyzed. Bicyclists are particularly vulnerable to injuries which can cause paralysis, such as spinal injury and brain injury.
Safety Tips to Avoid Bicycle Accidents
Even a relatively minor bicycle accident can cause chronic injuries that can have a serious impact on your quality of life. If you tend to ride your bike to work, or are regularly sharing the road with other vehicles, it is crucial that you follow these important safety tips:
- Always wear a bike helmet
- Be alert and aware of your surroundings
- Use appropriate hand signals to let others know if you are turning
- Wear bright-colored clothing during the day and reflective gear at night so that you are visible in the dark
- Obey the rules of the road
- Slow down at intersections in case you need to brake quickly
- Ride in the same direction as traffic, not against it
- Never pass a car on the right as you approach an intersection
- If riding with other cyclists, try to ride single-file when cars are around and keep a following distance between yourself and the rider ahead of you which is safe and matches with your skill level and the conditions. Alert your fellow bicyclists if there is a potential safety hazard ahead.