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helmet-on-bicycle-10045610One of the best things for most bike riders is the freedom of the open road, unencumbered by the “cage” of a car or truck. One of the facts of riding is that it is fairly impossible for bike riders to be distracted by the use of hand held devices while riding. Unless you have three hands or an extra arm, texting while riding is not going to happen. Perhaps a rider might check a handheld at a stop sign or signal, but hand held and bike riding is thankfully just not physically realistic. But for those driving in cars and trucks, we see this distracted driving more and more and it is very dangerous for everyone sharing the road, particularly those on bikes. Drivers in cars and trucks using hand held devices, which are to varying degrees illegal for use while driving in many states, are often the cause of injury-causing accidents with those on bikes.

A study from the Florida Department of Transportation states that those in cars and trucks are in fact more often at fault for the failure to yield to bikes and other small vehicles. The study indicates that those in cars and trucks are more often to blame in severe or fatal crashes than the bike rider. One of the reasons for this is that drivers simply don’t expect to see a smaller vehicle on the road and don’t pay attention at times to what is around them. This is becoming true also with pedestrian accidents. If you are riding a bike or walking across a street, it is necessary to become a defensive rider or walker to protect against this level of distraction. Add to this inherent lack of awareness and thinking ahead on the road, those distracting handhelds and it is really quite a dangerous formula. This is especially true as the weather improves in warmer climates and as we move into spring. Drivers will start seeing more riders out as the weather improves and some of them will fail to notice the increased presence of motorcycles.

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1214589454Q2B5aOFor those who have waited for the winter to end before taking their bicycles out, rest assured the weather will improve and more riders will be out in earnest soon. Whether you are an experienced rider or just got your first great bike and can’t wait to get out on the Georgia roads or trails, safety comes first. So what do experienced riders and responders recommend for those going out for the season? Here are some safety tips we collected from safety experts to keep your ride fun and injury-free.

Think safety before going out on your bike. The Centers for Disease Control has a list of preventative measures to protect your head. So, start at the top and make sure you protect against head injuries. These can occur when a rider falls. Even a fall that doesn’t cause other injuries and seems uneventful can turn out to be harmful or even deadly. Just as in skiing accidents, a rider can fall and have a brain bleed and not know it. So, if you are riding and fall and your helmet is damaged, that could be a sign that your head was hit harder than you think. And it is what happens inside your skull that is the worry. If you begin having a headache, that is a sign that your brain could be affected by the fall. Other issues that could signal a brain injury include blurred or impaired vision. You or a riding partner should contact 911 so that you can get checked out for injury.

Another area of concern in a fall are spinal issues. If you have experienced a fall and believe you might be injured do a couple of things to rule out your spine. Try to turn your head slowly to make sure you have normal range of motion. If you do not, stop moving your head and contact 911. If you have any numbness or tingling in your limbs, this could be a symptom of spinal injury so contact medical help.

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Accident Stats and Protections for Cyclists

We are proud to have the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) right here in Atlanta. The CDC helps Americans in many areas of health and safety. One of those is in the gathering of statistics, which in turn informs us of how we are doing with regard to health and safety. Atlantans might not realize just how much information is available to all of us at the CDC website. You can find helpful information about medical issues, illness protection and so much more. Recently, we reviewed some of the statistics on bicycle safety in America. As Atlanta bicycle enthusiasts, we were pleased to find important statistics regarding bicycle safety at the CDC. We want to share some of that with our “two wheel” readers who will especially benefit from this knowledge.

CDC statistics show that in recent years about 1,000 cyclists sustained fatal injuries. In addition, over 400,000 cyclists were injured. All of this amounted to lifetime health costs in the billions of dollars. Just when cyclists have the time to get out and ride more often, the statistics reveal that those in their 50’s are more likely to have a fatal injury on their bikes. And most of these tragic situations include male riders. More injuries are sustained by children and teens than in any other demographic. This does not mean that we should avoid riding, it means we need to make sure we have done all we can to protect our bodies when riding.

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1214589454Q2B5aO.jpgIt makes sense that when we get on a bicycle or motorcycle, a helmet can keep us from serious brain injury. But many riders still resist the use of helmets even though they keep riders safer. Helmet use has not risen, but bike riding has. Perhaps riders don’t like to use a helmet because they assume that they cannot be seriously injured in the event of an accident or they believe that a helmet hinders their ability to see. But in my experience over two decades as a Gwinnett County bicycle accident lawyer, serious injuries can sometimes be avoided with the use of a helmet.

In some cities and states, bicycle helmets are required for all riders. In Georgia, our laws are a little different. We have several laws that provide for protective gear while riding a bicycle. Georgia’s bicycle helmet law found in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) section 40-6-296 (d) (1)) focuses on children and teens and states that “[n]o person under the age of 16 years shall operate or be a passenger on a bicycle on a highway, bicycle path, bicycle lane, or sidewalk under the jurisdiction or control of this state or any local political subdivision thereof without wearing a bicycle helmet.” Helmets are also required to meet or exceed the standards for bicycle helmets set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the Snell Memorial Foundation.

Similarly, under OCGA section 40-6-292 (c) children under the age of one may not be passengers on a bicycle on a highway, roadway, bicycle path, or sidewalk unless certain equipment is used. This provision allows for the transport of young children using an infant sling or bicycle trailer as long as the manufacturer’s instructions are followed and the child is wearing a bicycle helmet.

Sharing the road with motor vehicles increases the danger that in the event of an accident or even a fall, the cyclist could be injured. For example, if a cyclist goes over the bike’s handlebars, serious injury can result.

Physicians see a lot of head injuries when helmets are not worn. As noted in one recent report, doctors and other experts favor helmets due to the nature of the brain’s tissues which is comprised of a soft, complex network of tissues that is not well-protected. They note that brain tissue is delicate and that the skull is not enough protection from serious injury to the brain in many bike crashes.

Unfortunately, many riders don’t realize that even in a low velocity crash, they can be injured seriously. But wearing a helmet often completely avoids significant head injury and riders often walk away from accidents if they have been wearing a helmet. Amazingly, the large study done in the late 1980’s showed that “wearing a helmet reduced the risk of head injury by 85 percent and of brain injury by 88 percent.” More recent statistics collected by researchers has revealed that “91 percent of bicyclists killed in 2008 weren’t wearing helmets.”

Doctors note that they cannot heal brain injuries in the same way that they can help patients heal broken bones or soft tissue injuries. As we have posted previously, traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be mild to severe, and symptoms vary greatly depending on the location of the injury. Even with milder TBI, symptoms can interfere with cognition and other functions, such as memory loss, sleep and concentration. Wearing a helmet decreases the risk of skull fracture and serious injury, although concussion can still occur when the brain moves inside the skull in an accident even with a helmet.

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Atlanta Cycling Makes the Big List

Atlanta cyclists will be pleased to know that our city has landed on a top 50 list for American cycling cities. The folks at bicycle.com compile a list on a biannual basis. They use data collected from riders and federal agencies, including the Census, consult with organizations in the know about walking and cycling and publish a top 50 cycling cities list. Although we know cities can always do better with safe riding to school and general cycling safety and security, Atlanta should be proud to make this list, because it is quite an accomplishment. Atlanta cycling is moving in a good direction. We can always improve our streets for the safety of cyclists which helps avoid accident and serious injury. But we see that Atlanta is moving in a positive direction for all those who love riding. Atlanta made the top 50 list due to a vital commitment to and focus on improvements for two-wheeled riders.

Georgia Cycling Laws and Investment Help

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iStock_000016429140XSmall-300x200Motorcyclists know the dangers that intersections present. Often these dangers are posed by caged drivers who, for example, fail to see a motorcyclist making a turn. The Atlanta motorcycle community has lost a great friend recently in a different kind of intersection crash. After a night of work as a bartender, a young man was sitting on his bike at an intersection and then, in a flash, he was killed. An allegedly intoxicated driver of an SUV came along behind the biker and not only struck him, but dragged him a few feet, pushing the bike into the intersection. The young man died as a result of his injuries in this tragic and fatal motorcycle crash.

The SUV driver is now charged with several crimes under Georgia law. These include the serious criminal charge of homicide by vehicle in the first degree under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-393 (a). This offense carries a prison sentence of “not less than three years nor more than 15 years.” Other offenses include driving under the influence. The crash occurred at the intersection of Ponce de Leon and Clifton Road which was closed for several hours after the crash. The authorities performed an investigation of the crash site to preserve evidence and document what happened.

We have learned some meaningful things about this fallen Atlanta motorcyclist as his community mourns his loss and expresses their grief. After the fatal crash, his co-workers and employers have shared their thoughts and feelings about this young victim. The deceased biker was a popular and beloved man. His co-workers at a Midtown restaurant and bar shared their experience of him. They say not only was he really good at his bartending job, he was also really good at being a friend and kind person. In the notice released by his employer he was said to have been not only a cherished mentor, but a friend, both generous and caring. They called him “inspiring.” Our hearts are heavy learning about this wonderful person, friend and colleague. We know that his family and friends are hurting now and we are thinking of them.

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Did you know that International Ride to Work Day took place last month. This special day is intended to celebrate the joy of motorcycling and to raise awareness for safer riding. Here at Georgia on Two Wheels, we are all for that!  The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration points out that in 2015 there were nearly 5,000 fatal accidents involving motorcyclists. All bike enthusiasts want to do all we can do lower that number. Unfortunately, this represents an 8-percent increase from the prior year. Another tough statistic is that fatalities involving motorcycles are more likely to happen than fatalities involving passenger vehicles.

The difference between life and death can be something very controllable, like speed on a curve, or keeping your eyes up on an intersection turn or wearing a protective helmet. Helmets are so important to safe riding. We cannot stress this enough. It should be a top priority for all riders who want to ride safely. And of course, riding sober is right up there too as a key for safe riding.

One trend for the bike industry is very positive. That trend has become more and more evident: bikes are the ride of choice for some in the younger generation. With older riders slowing down both in their lives and in their buying of new motorcycles, the trend for younger riders is welcome by all. Young riders who were disinterested in bikes in previous years, are picking up the many new offerings especially created for new riders from Honda, Harley and other manufacturers. Younger riders, millennials in fact, are being pulled in by bikes that are meant just for them. If this new rider generation sticks, it will be very good news for the bike makers.

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Motorcycle-rider-on-fall-roadway-300x199Important news for all motorcycle enthusiasts. The ground-breaking naturalistic riding study sponsored by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) is finally published and provides an important contribution to rider safety and why crashes happen. We want to share some of the highlights of this study with our readers. The collaboration with the MSF and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) took several years to compile and gathered information through riders while they were on their rides. Prior to this study, motorcycle crash data had been gathered either after an accident or in a simulator. We have mentioned this study in prior posts, but now that it is fully published, we would like to share some items of interest with you.

Just to recap. This study used 100 motorcyclists riding more than 350,000 miles on their own bikes. The riders varied in age from 21 to 79 years of age. Riders were located in various locations around the country, California, Arizona, Florida and Virginia. The information was gathered over two years for some riders and less time for others. The opening introduction to the study says that it is captures factors that both “increased and decreased risk for riders based on observed crashes and near-crashes.”

Even though motorcycle deaths had been declining in the period prior to the study, injuries had increased. No prior research was able to capture the information and data collected by this more high-tech study. In the past, riders were interviewed after a crash or a crash was reconstructed which is helpful, but not exact. This more high-tech study sheds light on crash and near-crash events from the perspective of the rider. In the study, motorcycles were rigged with video cameras, GPS information and other data captures, including braking and acceleration. No other study has captured so much data about riding and risks. We summarize the findings here.

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iStock_000001912776XSmall-300x207There has been a resurgence of bicycle riding in American cities for several years now. Bike lanes and share the road efforts have been underway literally in every state in our nation. The renown National Geographic magazine has been documenting some pretty amazing cycling in the past few years. In an article a couple of years ago, one writer asked, “Are Bikes the New Tour Bus?” The writer advocated that riding a bike is the best way to see a city. City riding is not the only cycling that has been on the rise in recent years. Longer cycling adventures, not just city riding or day rides, are also a big part of cycling in America.

One adventurous rider and writer for the NatGeo, decided to traverse our big country on the 40th anniversary of what is called the TransAmerica bike trail. As in the days of the first railroad, this trail crosses our big nation and was the great project of the Adventure Cycling Association several decades ago. This thriving nonprofit organization is on a mission to provide information and support to those wanting to ride just about anywhere in the United States. Not only do they provide maps and routes, they have guided tours that cyclists can join for a great riding experience.

If you are considering a long or a shorter ride, lots of information is available these days to make your ride more comfortable and safe. Bike riding on a long ride requires planning, but rest assured there are many others out there who have gathered lots of information for avid cyclists to review before getting out on a major ride.

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Motorcycle4In our last post, we shared some safety tips for new and returning riders. For all riders, safety should be top of mind when purchasing a new bike or starting the spring riding season. We shared information about rider training, choosing a bike that “fits” and other key steps riders can take to keep their rides safe and sound. Here are a few more tips and reminders for our readers on bike and riding safety as the spring season begins.

Helmet Use Can Help

Georgia law requires that all motorcycle riders wear a helmet. Additionally, eye protection is required when the motorcycle has no windshield. Around the country there is controversy among riders about the use of helmets. Some riders have lobbied to remove helmet requirements from their respective state laws. There are many states in which helmet laws were enacted and then repealed. Even though use of a helmet might not be preferred by some riders, it can protect riders from serious injury.

Not every motorcycle accident involves a head injury. But according to statistics reported by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, when a rider goes down with no helmet and suffers a head injury, that injury is nearly forty percent more likely to be fatal. The rider is also much more likely to suffer a brain injury. As we have learned over the past few decades, even a minor concussion can cause what is called Mild Traumatic Brain Injury or MTBI. These aren’t mild to those who suffer headaches, dizziness, confusion and other issues for months after. So imagine what a more serious brain injury can involve. Helmet use is a wise choice for all riders. Continue reading →

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