With spring already upon us and summer just around the corner, we’re starting to see more and more families getting out bicycles and taking to the streets and sidewalks to enjoy the longer hours of daylight. In fact, the organization Safe Kids, reports that more than 70 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 ride a bicycle regularly. It’s great to see kids enjoying some healthy activities outdoors, but there is unfortunately a dangerous side to bicycle riding. While we may all be aware of the risk of bicycle-related injury and even death in a general sense, a closer look at some of the statistics can be quite startling.
For example, data from the National Highway Transportation Association indicates that in 2009, 630 cyclists were killed and 51,000 were injured in accidents that involved a bicycle and a motor vehicle, making up 2% of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities. The majority of these fatalities—70%–occurred in urban areas. And about three-fourths of the fatalities occurred during daylight hours. Cyclists under the age of 16 accounted for 13% of all cyclists killed.
Injury—oftentimes preventable injury—is in fact the leading cause of death among children ages 14 and under and bicycle-related injuries specifically one of the leading causes of childhood morbidity. Looking at data that reveals more specific information, every year, approximately 140 children under the age of 14 are killed in bicycle accidents and another 275,000 children sustain bicycle-related injuries. These statistics mean that, aside from automobiles, bicycles are the cause of more childhood injuries than any other consumer product.
Bicycle accidents involving children—both fatal and nonfatal—generally occur during the warmest months of the year between May and October. The majority (58%) occur at locations other than an intersection and between the hours of 2 – 8 pm.
Spending a little time reviewing the injury statistics for children bikers brings into focus the ongoing need to promote safe bicycling habits at home. These habits include, among other things:
- Proper helmet use,
- Wearing bright, reflective clothing
- Properly adjusting the bicycle to fit the rider
- Knowing and following the rules of the road
- Keeping children under the age of 10 off the street and confined to sidewalks.
By following some basic rules, you can help ensure that preventable injuries are in fact prevented.