Children ride bicycles everywhere. If a child has a bike of his or her own, it can open up a world of freedom and transit to and from school, a friend’s house, summer camp, or even to run errands for the family. It is hard to spend time outside in Illinois in the summer without seeing a child riding a bicycle.
With the freedom a bicycle provides, though, there are risks to those children who ride. The most serious may be when a collision occurs between a child on a bike and a driver of a car, truck, or van. These accidents can be very serious and often result in injuries to the child.
Kids between the ages of five and 14 are injured more often in bicycle accidents than in any other sport, sending thousands of children to the hospital each year. Only about 45 percent of children wear helmets nationally meaning that more than half of kids are at risk for serious head injuries if involved in an accident.
Safety Tips for Kids
The most important thing any parent can do to keep their child safe while riding a bike is to insist that each child wear a bicycle helmet. Experts estimate that bike helmets reduce the risk of serious head injury by 88%, meaning that helmet use greatly decreases the risk of brain injury or death among kids. Not all bike helmets are the same so it is important that parents select a bike helmet that meets minimum safety standards. Additionally, a helmet is not ready to wear right after purchase. Instead, to reach the desired fit, parents need to adjust the straps and make sure that the helmet fits as designed. Your child’s bike helmet should come with detailed instructions on this process but the general idea is that the helmet should be level from front to back and that the straps should be snug enough to ensure it remains in the proper spot. Also, make sure that the helmet sits above your child’s eyes so that their vision remains unobstructed while they ride. If you are concerned about what helmet to get, contact your local bike store. Many offer assistance with helmet selection and will even help adjust the helmet so it fits your child and will keep your child safe.
Kids should be encouraged to follow all local laws while riding their bikes. These can vary greatly from city to city so it is important for parents to have an understanding of the rules where they live. For example, some areas only allow kids of a certain age to ride on the sidewalk with older kids and adults being required to ride in the street. Other areas encourage all riders to remain on the sidewalk to separate bicyclists from motorists. Check with your local authorities to make sure you know the rules of the road where your children will ride their bikes.
Bicyclists should ride with traffic. This means that they should ride on the right side of the road or the right sidewalk and should stay as far to the right as possible. When turning, kids should be encouraged to use hand signals to let drivers know which way they will be traveling and to alert others that the bicycle will be crossing a street. And when riding at night, children should always use a bike light as well as reflectors on their bicycles. It is also a good idea for kids to wear reflective clothing and bright colors to make themselves as visible as possible to drivers on the road.
Common Bike Accidents Involving Kids
In 2011, there were 549 kids age 14 and younger who were hurt in a bicycle collision in the state of Illinois. Tragically, four children in that age group were killed in these crashes. Kids are at the mercy of drivers and depend on drivers to act in a safe manner and when that does not happen, accidents occur.
Many of these crashes happen where you least expect them – in the neighborhood where a child lives. Cars driving too fast through a residential area coupled with children riding in the street can lead to collisions and injuries among the kids. After these accidents, the driver usually claims that he or she never saw the child, but this does not give a driver the right to strike a child on a bicycle. Even if a child is hard to see, it is still the driver’s responsibility to stay alert and watch for cyclists.
Another common type of accident involving children is one that occurs at an intersection with a turning car. These usually happen when a child is crossing in front of a vehicle that wants to turn either left or right. Drivers may be checking oncoming or opposing traffic to make sure it is clear to turn and then may begin their turn without checking to see if a child is in a crosswalk in front of their vehicle. Too often, a turning car hits a child and then blames the child and the child’s lack of experience for cashing the crash. Just like in any other instance, when a child is in a crosswalk and has the right-of-way, a driver must yield to that child and must not turn until it is safe to do so.
Motorists can also cause crashes when they do not stop at a stop sign or red light. Failing to yield means that the motorist can place his or her vehicle in the same spot at the same time as a child on a bicycle. These crashes can cause some of the worst injuries because the car is often traveling at full speed at the time of impact, meaning the force involved in the crash can be high. Children who are victims in failure to yield crashes may be thrown from their bicycles, further increasing the odds of an injury.
Importantly, all drivers should realize that bicycle accidents involving children can happen during any month of the year. While summertime may see the largest number of kids riding bikes, there are children who ride year-round, including on their way to school, and therefore motorists should not assume that they are free from the threat of a crash simply because of the time of the year.
What to Do if Your Child Has Been Hurt
If your child has been hurt while riding a bicycle, you may have legal rights to a recovery against the at-fault individual who caused the crash. Contact the lawyers at Abels & Annes, P.C. and let us provide you with a free case consultation regarding the accident. We can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (855) LAW-CHICAGO and if we take your case, we will never charge a fee unless we make a recovery on your behalf. If you prefer, contact us online for a free consultation. Call us now and let us help your family get the recovery you deserve.
If your child has been injured in a bicycle accident, call us now at (855) LAW-CHICAGO or Contact Us online for a free consultation.