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Common sense can help bicyclists avoid accidents

When a bicycle and a car are involved in an accident, the results can be devastating. According to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, 630 cyclists were killed in crashes involving motor vehicles in 2009. An additional 500,000 bike accidents ended with a trip to the emergency room.

Bicyclists need to assume that drivers of motor vehicles cannot see them because they are often not looking for them or they may not be paying attention because of careless driving. Occupying the slow traffic lane and riding in a straight line without weaving in and out of cars are good ideas.

While it is always the responsibility of car drivers to pay attention to all the traffic around them including bicycles, they may not always do so. Bicycle riders should take whatever precautions are necessary to promote their own safety.

Bicycle safety experts suggest that cyclists can help themselves stay out of trouble by not consuming alcohol while riding, as more than 30 percent of fatalities involved cyclists that were legally drunk.

Other suggestions include leaving the headphones home and riding with the traffic instead of against it as close to the right side of the road as possible.

Head injuries are the cause of death in 75 percent of bicycle accidents, so the use of a bike safety helmet is highly recommended. Helmets need to cover the rider's forehead and should be replaced every three to five years.

Experts recommend using a light at night and wearing bright or fluorescent colors day and night to be better seen by motorists and others on the road. Bicycles should also have proper working lights and reflectors installed.

Source: Detroit Free Press "How bicyclists can reduce risk of accident" Aug. 1, 2011

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