Significant injuries often occur in a car collision with a bicycle

Head injuries are the leading cause of bicycle accident fatalities. Wearing a helmet reduces head injury risk by two-thirds.

Politicians and environmentalists extoll the virtues of riding a bicycle in sunny Southern California as a healthy lifestyle alternative to driving on congested roads. Bicycling has many benefits and progress continues to be made on making cycling increasingly safe. Unfortunately, dangers remain. Recently, the Orange County Register reported that a 38-year-old Dana Point resident lost his life in a bicycle-automobile collision. The victim was riding a bicycle on the Pacific Coast Highway when he was struck by a 2001 Acura. The driver of the Acura had been drinking prior to the accident.

Cyclists have the same rights as others lawfully on the highways. Unfortunately, bicycle accidents often result because the operators of automobiles are not always sufficiently careful when they encounter cyclists. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says that in motor vehicle collisions with bicycles, intoxication by the motorist is often the cause. Another major cause of bicycle accidents is distracted driving by motorists. Science Daily magazine reported on a study that showed that bicyclists are increasingly the victims of distracted driving. Indeed, there has been a 30 percent increase in distracted driving bicycle-automobile crashes between 2005 and 2010.

Automobile collisions with cyclists can cause the cyclist to sustain significant injuries which can be fatal. According to American Family Physician, the most common injuries in a bicycle-automobile collision are those to the head, neck, abdomen and thorax. Head injuries are responsible for over 60 percent of all bicycle-related deaths and the majority of long-term disabilities. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons estimates that at least two-thirds of head injuries could be prevented by wearing a helmet. Of those who die from head injuries-two-thirds of those deaths are attributable to traumatic brain injury. A TBI can be broadly defined as a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain.

Even with a helmet, a collision with an automobile can lead to head trauma. As explained in VELO News, whenever a cyclist sustains a hard hit to the head, the helmet will absorb some of the impact thereby protecting the brain case itself. However, a major strike to the skull still traumatizes the brain by "slamming it around inside the skull." At the moment of an impact with the head, all cells in the brain fire at once leading to a metabolic dysfunction. This metabolic dysfunction causes chemicals that should be inside a cell to go out of the cell while chemicals that should remain outside the cell penetrate the cell. The result is a severely traumatized organ system.

Staying safe

The NHTSA advises drivers of automobiles that they need to share the road with cyclists by being courteous and allowing at least three feet of clearance when passing cyclists on the highway. Always look for cyclists before opening a car door or pulling out from a parking space. Furthermore, motorists should yield to cyclists at intersections and be especially watchful when making turns. Cyclists are advised to increase their visibility by wearing florescent or brightly colored clothing during the day. At night, bicycles should be equipped with lights and reflectors and riders should wear retro-reflective tape on their clothing. Importantly, cyclists should always wear a helmet when riding.

Legal assistance

California law affords victims of a bicycle accident the right to seek compensation for any injuries sustained as a result of a negligent motorist. If you have been injured in a collision with a motor vehicle, you need to contact a California attorney who is experienced in handling bicycle accident cases.

Keywords: bicycle accidents, car collision, injury, helmet use, California