It’s fall. For children, this means that school is back in session and playtime is delayed until after the final bell. The rush hour brings more vehicles on the road, and it begins to get dark earlier. The increased traffic and decreased daylight can be a deadly combination resulting in fatal bicycle accident injuries.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that although adults aged 50-59 have the highest bicycle death rate, children aged five to 14 and 15 to 19 have the highest rate of non-fatal bicycle accidents. Non-fatal childhood bicycle accident injuries account for more than one-third of bicycle-related injuries treated in U.S. emergency rooms.
During 2015, 37 children aged 14 or younger were killed because of bicycle accidents, according to Helmets.org. This accounts for 7% of the total number of fatalities. At least 5,000 children suffered non-fatal bicycle accident injuries.
With less daylight hours, the odds of a bicycle accident may increase. Maryland Roads suggestions that 25% of all fatal bicycle accidents involve a scenario in which it was dark outside and a motorist traveling at a higher rate of speed collided with a bicyclist.
Maryland Roads suggests that children should avoid riding after dark and that children who get caught out in the dark with their bicycles should call their parents for a ride. For older and experienced riders traveling at night, the CDC recommends wearing reflecting clothing that can make the rider more visible at night along with active lighting, such as front white lights, rear red lights, or other lighting on the bicycle.
No matter the time of year or time of day that children ride, it is recommended that they wear a bike helmet to prevent head and brain injuries in the event of an accident. This is a legal requirement in 21 states, including Pennsylvania.
In addition to wearing a helmet, Healthychildren.org also suggestions that children ride on the right side-with traffic, respect traffic laws, and use appropriate hand signals. Following the traffic laws and recommended guidelines can mean the difference between life and death for a bicyclist. Talk to your children about smart riding practices and help keep them safe this fall. Parents should also follow the same guidelines — Not just to set a good example for their children, but also for their own safety.