It 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.
If you or a loved one has been injured while riding a bicycle, help is available to support your medical and legal needs. Please contact me for a free consultation to discuss the circumstances of your accident or injury and an evaluation of your legal rights.