Bicycle riders enjoy riding throughout Oklahoma City for exercise, for the companionship of family and friends, for the scenery, and because it is a fun inexpensive form of transportation. But riding a bike can also be extremely dangerous. Riders rely on cars, trucks, and other motor vehicle operators to respect the rights of bicycle riders as they ride with traffic, cross intersections, and when they’re on the side of the road.
Bicycles are simply no match for the size and weight of motor vehicles. When a car crashes into a bicycle rider, the rider will be lucky to survive. Many victims suffer catastrophic injuries including traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage and paralysis, broken bones, traumatic amputation, and other types of permanent harm. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2019:
- 846 pedacycliists died nationwide in traffic accidents. Pedacyclists include riders of two-wheel bicycles – and also riders of nonmotorized vehicles, tricycles, and unicycles powered solely by pedals.
- 49,000 pedacyclists were injured.
- The death rate for males was six times higher than for females. The injury rate for males was five times higher than for females.
The mechanics of a bike accident
According to Consumer Reports (CR), a bike can be thought of as a “chain of events transferring kinetic energy that starts with a cyclist on a bike and ends with the possible microscopic jostling of brain cells.” Here’s what happens when there’s a bicycle accident:
- The bike stops suddenly due to a collision with a car or a solid object, or due to a gradual sliding fall. As the bike stops “some of the energy is dissipated when the frame or wheel crumples, or by the friction of the slide.”
- The rider continues moving while the bike has stopped. Bicycle riders don’t stop when the bike stops. A rider is likely to fall to the ground or tumble over the handlebars. Many different factors will affect the force of the fall.
- The brain is suspended in a bath of cerebrospinal fluid. Even if the helmet works as it’s supposed to and prevents the rider’s skull from fracturing, the rider may still develop a concussion:
If the impact is largely linear—right between the eyes or across the head from one ear to the other—the brain sloshes back and forth inside the skull until the energy dissipates. If the impact is off-center, rotational forces come into play. The brain no longer simply moves back and forth—it also rotates inside the skull, increasing the chance of damage to the delicate tissues.
- The brain cells might twist, stretch, or rupture. These movements could cause chemical changes that prevent the brain cells from sending information the way they are meant to. The Consumer Reports discussion continues by referencing a clinical professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Boston University Medical School who says that the end result of the bicycle accident can cause confusion, memory problems, trouble concentrating, and other cognitive deficits – that the rider’s neurological team will examine.
Can a bike helmet prevent brain injuries in cyclists?
Depending on how tall the rider is, the rider’s head – when a he or she falls – will hit the road, pavement, or an object at about 9.5 to 13.4 mph. When the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) tests helmets the agency tests impact at speeds of 10.7 and 13.9 mph.
A helmet can help protect a rider during the impact. The outer shell of the helmet helps stop punctures from sharp objects while giving your head room to glide as it moves, which can also reduce the risk of your head and/or neck being “wrenched” during impact. Per CR, “The dense expanded polystyrene foam core compresses or breaks, spreading the force over a wider area. That lengthens the time it takes for your head to come to a complete stop, usually dissipating enough energy to prevent a skull fracture or damage to a major blood vessel, which can crush the brain as the sealed skull fills with blood.”
What types of injuries do Oklahoma City bicycle riders suffer?
Some of the different types of catastrophic and long-term injuries that bicycle accidents cause include:
- Head trauma and traumatic brain injuries. These injuries often require immediate neurological surgery – followed up by months, years, or a lifetime of rehabilitative care. Victims usually suffer physically and emotionally. Many victims also suffer some loss of cognitive function.
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis. Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) affect a rider’s strength, sensation, nerves, and bodily functions below the point of the injury. SCIs can cause partial or full paralysis.
- Traumatic amputation/loss of limb. Riders who are struck by a car can lose an arm or limb. For many people who lose a limb, the emotional scars are just as traumatic as the physical pain. Many amputation victims require psychological help.
- Broken bones. Many riders suffer compound, complex, multiple, and simple fractures that may take months to heal and may leave a victim with chronic pain.
- Road rash. Bicycle riders, like motorcycle riders, often slide along gravelly roads which can cause road rash. Road rash can cause signification bone, muscle, and nerve damage. A major concern with road rash injuries is the risk of infection which can cause sepsis.
Car and other motor vehicle drivers have a duty to watch for bicycle riders and respect the rights of bicycle riders. Our Oklahoma City bicycle accident lawyers understand the applicable traffic laws and rules for both bicycle riders and drivers of cars, trucks, and other motor vehicles. We hold negligent drivers accountable for their negligence and for the injuries and deaths they cause.
At Cunningham & Mears, our Oklahoma City bicycle accident lawyers work with the accident victim, police officers, and investigators to show how the bicycle accident happened and why drivers should be held accountable. Common causes of bicycle accidents include distracted driving, speeding, and drunk driving. We also work to obtain compensation for all your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost income, scarring and disfigurement, and other damages. To speak with an experienced respected personal injury lawyer, call us or contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
Marcus P. Mears is a founding partner of Cunningham & Mears. Mr. Mears is committed to helping Oklahoma’s injured victims in the areas of injury law and insurance litigation. Mr. Mears was selected to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for his work as lead counsel in multiple seven figure injury cases. Learn More