California is heaven for cyclists of all ages. Many people in the Oakland area can commute to work on their bikes and college students use them for daily transportation around campus.
In the world of bicycles, an accident can happen in the blink of an eye. If you ride without a helmet, you risk suffering a head injury that could alter the course of your life.
A common injury
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 600,000 people are treated for bicycle-related injuries every year, and 824 die from their injuries. In bicycle-related crashes, a head injury is the most common cause of lifelong disability due to irreversible brain damage. A cyclist may also die from such an injury.
The data on helmets
Data gathered at the CDC indicates that only 19 percent of adult cyclists and 15 percent of children wear helmets. The agency estimates that if children between the ages of 4 and 15 wore them, this simple act could save between 39,000 and 45,000 head injuries annually. In fact, California law requires cyclists younger than 18 to wear helmets if they are riding on a bikeway, public bicycle path or street. Helmets must fit properly and conform to legal standards. Beginning in 1994, the CDC joined with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other agencies to promote the use of bicycle helmets. California was one of the first states to implement the safety program, which targeted school children in low-income families. The program was successful in that helmet use in this group increase substantially.
Prevention of head injuries
Although many riders still do not wear helmets, studies show that they reduce head injuries by close to 80 percent. Cyclists have the same road rights as motorists and many experienced cyclists ride alongside vehicles, traveling with the flow of traffic. Many vehicle-bicycle collisions occur because a car or truck is too close to a bicycle or because a vehicle turns directly in front of a cyclist. The resulting crash can cause road rash, broken bones and, in the absence of a bicycle helmet, the possibility of a devastating head injury.