Safe Bicycling For Children

When a child between the ages of 5 and 14 shows up in a U.S. hospital emergency rooms for treatment, more often than not, it’s because of a bicycle-related injury. According to SafeKids.org/bike, biking accounts for more child emergency room visits than any other sport.

At The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman's BikeAttorney.com, our bicycle accident lawyers believe the safety of child cyclists should be a top priority in Boston and beyond.

There is recent evidence to suggest bicycle accidents among children are decreasing substantially. But this isn’t necessarily cause to celebrate when you consider it’s not that cycling has gotten so much safer. Rather, the decline is largely attributed to the fact fewer children are riding their bikes in the first place.

Consider that just in 2015, we saw the following child injuries from bicycle accidents:

  • A 3-year-old boy was injured in Medway when the bicycle trailer in which he was sitting was struck by a Jeep.
  • An 8-year-old girl was killed and a 12-year-old boy, her cousin, was seriously injured in Mattapan after they were struck by a hit-and-run driver in front of their grandmother’s home. The driver was later arrested.
  • A teen cyclist was killed in Dorchester after a vehicle involved in a collision with another car spun around and struck him. The driver fled but was later arrested.

The City of Boston’s Youth Cycling Program is one effort intended to drive down child bicycle accident and injury rates. It involves connecting bicycle instructors and incorporating those lessons in classroom curriculum for kids in grades 2 to 12, providing them safety stills to use bikes for recreation and transportation.

More than 24,000 children participated in the program from 2009 to 2014, and the effort has been ongoing.

Child Bike Accident Statistics

A 2015 NHTSA report based on 2013 data revealed 52 children under the age of 14 were killed in bicycle accidents in a single year. That’s one death every single week, and it accounts for about 7 percent of the total number of cycling fatalities nationally.

As far as injuries, there were 5,000 bike-related child injuries in that one year, which accounted for about 10.5 percent of the total.

The good news is these percentages are substantially lesser than in years past. In 2009, children 14 and under accounted for 17 percent of bicycling deaths in the U.S.

In fact, a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) indicated the largest decrease in bicycle death rates were seen among children younger than 15 over the course of 38 years. Historically, fatality rates for children under 15 was much higher than for other age groups, probably because bicycling was primarily seen as a child’s activity.

In 1975, the child cycling mortality rate was 1.18 per 100,000 population. That was more than four times the 0.25 rate for those over the age of 15. By 2012, there was a marked role reversal. At that time, researchers found the mortality rate for children under 15 was 0.09 – one-third of the 0.27 rate for other age groups.

This decrease marked a 91 percent decline in the rate of child cyclist deaths between 1975 and 2012.

But that does not mean the work is done. We still have one child a week dying in bike accidents in this country. Even one child death is too many, and we as communities must fully understand the issue before we can address it.

In cases where bicycle accidents resulting in death or injury to children resulted from some defect in the roadway or traffic design, the city itself may be held responsible. More commonly, such accidents are the result of negligence by drivers. Parents of children harmed may seek compensation for recovery of:

  • Medical bills
  • Funeral expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Future medical costs and treatments

These damages may be collected even in cases where the child cyclist was partially to blame for the accident. This is referred to as comparative fault, and it is not a bar to recovery in Massachusetts injury lawsuits.

How Can We Keep Kids Safe on Bicycles?

Education is a critical element of child safety on bicycles. That’s where the city’s Youth Cycling Program is a valuable tool. Children must understand that while bicycles can be a lot of fun, they are not toys, but rather vehicles. As such, they must be operated with the utmost care and precaution.

The NHTSA recommends parents make sure child cyclists:

  • Wear a properly-fitted helmet. Helmets may reduce head injuries by more than 80 percent, according to federal research. Studies have shown that poor, minority children are less likely to wear helmets, and those children are also the most likely to suffer head injuries (the most lethal kind) in a crash.
  • Make sure the bike fits. A child attempting to operate a bike that is too big will have a tougher time handling it when seconds count.
  • Ensure it has the right equipment. Make sure the brakes work, the tires are inflated properly and it has reflectors, headlights and rear lights.
  • Don’t ride at night. It’s extremely dangerous for cyclists to ride at night, especially for children. It’s tougher for motorists to see you, and child cyclists take up an even smaller visual profile.

If your child has been injured in a Boston bicycle accident, call our offices today.

Contact the Boston Bicycle Accident Lawyers at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman's BikeAttorney.com.