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Bicycle safety for adults and children

The state of Washington is interested in promoting safe bicycling and offers many resources for bicyclists. It is especially important for children to learn safe bicycling habits, as they are especially likely to get into bicycle accidents.

Ready for safety

It is important for riders to be properly equipped. A helmet is a necessary accessory for all riders. Lights are required by law at night, a white headlight and a rear taillight or reflector. Riders should dress in bright colors to be more visible to motorists. Using headphones is never a good idea, as they can keep the rider from being fully aware of surroundings.

The Washington Department of Transportation reminds bicyclists to follow all the rules of the road, just like operators of any other vehicle. WDOT offers suggestions for safer bicycling.

Conduct in traffic

Being constantly on the alert is paramount. Bike riders must pay attention to everyone else around them and be ready to act quickly to avoid an accident. A careful rider will be constantly scanning the surroundings, always looking back before changing lanes.

Bicyclists should act predictably so that motorists know what to expect and avoid inadvertently colliding with a bicycle. Predictable behavior includes obeying traffic signals, riding with traffic, staying within lanes and signaling turns. It is best to ride in the middle of a lane when possible and to pass on the left rather than the right side of cars.

Children on bicycles

Of course, children are at risk on bicycles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cautions parents that bicycle crashes are more likely to send a child to the emergency room than any other sport or athletic activity.

More than 20 percent of those who are killed in bicycle accidents are children aged five to 15. Head injuries are the most frequent cause of death. Providing a child with a properly fitted helmet can help reduce the chances of a serious head injury by up to 88 percent.

The most common type of bicycle collision that children get into is called a "midblock rideout," which happens when a bicyclist enters a road from a driveway, alley or curb without looking in all directions for oncoming traffic.

Parents need to remember that young children do not have the same kind of cognitive functioning as adults. Children lack the impulse control that may be needed when they have to pause before riding into a street. They can also easily become distracted, and they have not learned to use peripheral vision to detect hazards. They may not yet know enough to anticipate that an unseen car could be coming around a curve.

Parents can help by showing their children a good example, knowing their children's limitations and enrolling children in bicycle safety courses when available. Children are most likely to be injured by falling, so parents will do well to look over the child's riding route for potholes and other obstacles and practice avoidance techniques with the child.

If a child is hurt in a collision with a car while bicycling, it is important to consult with a personal injury attorney to determine whether they may be able to recover costs, including medical treatment and compensation for the child's pain and suffering.