Street Smarts: A Safer Road for Bicyclists and Drivers
By Susan Johnston
As the weather warms up, biking to school, work, or just for fun becomes a lot more appealing and common. With this fun warm-weather activity come some risks: two percent of all traffic fatalities in 2010 were attributed to pedal cyclist accidents
according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It's important to understand and observe the rules of the road, both as a bicyclist and a driver, to keep the roads safe for everyone. To get ready for bike season, follow these three tips for riding (and driving) safer:
- Communicate with drivers. When biking, use a bell or horn to alert drivers or pedestrians when you're approaching. Before you turn, the League of American Bicyclists recommends using hand signals to communicate with those around you to avoid a collision. Also make eye contact with drivers to ensure that they have seen you, and always look before turning or crossing.
Visibility can be an issue for bicyclists in the dark, so take steps to ensure that motorists can see you. Adding white front lights and red back lights to your bike, plus reflective tape or clothing can also help make you more visible in the dark. And remember, visibility isn't just an issue late at night; cloudy days and early mornings can impair motorists' ability to see bicyclists on the road too.
- Obey the rules of the road. Drivers and bicyclists are expected to observe traffic rules such as stop signs and red lights. Ignoring these traffic rules can lead to injuries that would have otherwise been preventable. Never ride against the flow of traffic, warns bicycling organization Bike Smart. Drivers and pedestrians alike may not be expecting bicyclists riding in that direction. Also stay in your lane and don't ride on the sidewalk if you're an adult (though, children are allowed to ride on the sidewalk in some areas, according to the NHTSA.) Avoid distracted riding much like you would distracted driving, and wait to check your cellphone until you're safely off the road.
- Wear a helmet. In the event of an accident, wearing a helmet can help prevent a traumatic brain injury. The NHTSA estimates that if all children between ages 4 and 15 wore helmets it would prevent 39,000 to 45,000 head injuries each year. Some states require bicyclists under a certain age to wear a helmet, but it's a good idea for riders of all ages. Make sure your helmet is properly fitted to protect you in case of an accident and replace your helmet after any impact, suggests the League of American Bicyclists. The positioning, straps, and size are all factors in wearing a helmet properly. The NHTSA provides instructions that can help you check all of these bike safety considerations and keep you safe while riding.
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