State Health Commissioner Reminds New Yorkers: 'Bicycle Helmets Save Lives'

May is Bicycle Safety Month

ALBANY, NY (May 22, 2009) -- In recognition of Bicycle Safety Month, State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., urges New Yorkers to wear helmets and follow other safety precautions to ensure that their bicycling outings are safe.

"During the warmer months more bicyclists will be out on trails and roads enjoying this great outdoor activity," said Commissioner Daines. "Every time you get on a bike, think safety so that you may enjoy many more bicycling outings to come."

Each year approximately 50 New Yorkers are killed in bicycle crashes, more than 1,650 are severely injured and require hospitalization, and nearly 19,000 are treated and released from hospital emergency departments as a result of bicycle crashes.

Head injury is the leading cause of bicycle-related deaths, and more than one-third of those hospitalized have a traumatic brain injury, the most severe type of head injury.

Research shows that wearing a helmet is the most effective way to reduce bicycle-related injuries and fatalities, reducing the risk of a brain injury by 88 percent. Yet, in a 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the State Health Department, 83 percent of high school students reported "never or rarely" wearing a helmet when riding a bicycle during the previous year.

"These bicyclists are putting themselves at risk of serious injury by failing to adopt the simple precaution of wearing an inexpensive, comfortable helmet," said Dr. Daines.

New York State law requires all children under the age of 14 to wear approved bicycle helmets when biking or riding as a passenger on a bicycle. A violation may result in a fine of up to $50 for a parent or guardian.

According to Susan B. Hardman, director of the State Health Department's Bureau of Injury Prevention, a helmet should sit level on the head, cover the top of the forehead, be snug yet comfortable, and have limited movement from side to side and front to back.

"All helmets sold in the United States must be approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), so look for the CPSC sticker," said Hardman. "If you fall and hit your head, replace the helmet even if it appears undamaged, because it may not be able to protect you adequately if you fall again. Keep all your protective gear and equipment in good condition."

All bicyclists should know and follow these rules of the road:

  • Ride on the right side of the road, heading in the same direction as cars so you will see their tail lights, not their headlights.
  • Obey traffic signs and signals just as if you were driving a car.
  • Use correct hand signals when turning.
  • Stop at all intersections and marked and unmarked crosswalks.
  • Stop and look both ways before you enter a street.
  • Yield the right of way to pedestrians, skateboarders and skaters. Never pass until you have the other person's attention.
  • Children should ride on sidewalks and paths until they are at least 10 years old, show good riding skills, and observe basic rules of the road.
  • Wear reflective clothing and make sure your bike has a headlight and a rear reflector. If you ride at night, consider using additional lighting, reflective bands, vests and clothing to increase your visibility.

More information about bicycle safety is available on the State Health Department's Web site at: www.nyhealth.gov/prevention/injury_prevention.

Information is also available on the Web sites of the American Academy of Pediatrics at www.aap.org and the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute at www.bhsi.org.