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Bicycle helmet saves Michigan Auto Law receptionist’s eye

September 20, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

Michigan bike accident lawyer stresses importance of helmet use to prevent TBI, and lists 11 bike safety tips

Last week, one of our long-time receptionists, Lisa, was in a terrible bike accident. Lisa was riding her bicycle over a bridge on Commerce Trail in Commerce Township, when her back tire slipped on some water.

She fell head-first onto the pavement, fracturing the orbital bone below her left eye. Our photo shows how bad Lisa’s bike injury was.

I’m glad to report that after emergency surgery, Lisa is healing well and already back to work. What’s really remarkable about this bike accident is that Lisa’s bicycle helmet literally saved her eye — and quite likely prevented a serious brain injury.

Doctors told Lisa that if she was not wearing her bike helmet, she would have broken more bones in her face and that, in turn, would have displaced her eye.

The bike helmet also protected Lisa’s skull. If she didn’t have one, she certainly would have suffered a concussion, and even a life-threatening traumatic brain injury (TBI) or closed-head injury from the trauma to her skull and brain.

I want to thank Lisa for allowing me to share this personal story. Lisa said it would be a good thing for people to know how important a bicycle helmet is, and even offered to have her picture taken for this blog, so that it might serve as a warning for other bicyclists.

The irony is as an injury lawyer, I’ve been helping bicyclists hit by cars around Michigan for almost 20 years. My partner, Bobby Raitt, started the Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ) bike helmet giveaway to youth in under-served communities to help prevent pediatric traumatic brain injuries, when he served as president of the MAJ. I’ve seen so many tragic bicycle accidents like Lisa’s, normally where people are hit by cars that simply don’t see them, or clipped as cars are driving by. Many of these people suffer brain injuries and spinal cord injuries. And the bike accident injuries can be catastrophic when the rider is not wearing a helmet.

All of this is why I wanted to share with my readers about Lisa’s bike accident. So please, always wear your bike safety helmets!

Consider the facts, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:

o The most serious injuries among the majority of people killed in bicycle accidents are to the head.

o Helmet use has been estimated to reduce traumatic brain injury and head injury risk by 85 percent.

o 91 percent of bicyclists killed in 2009 (the latest statistic available) weren’t wearing helmets.

Many people think it can’t happen to them. But bike accidents are very common, especially in Michigan where almost all of our cities do not have bike lanes. Maybe Detroit will take a page from Mayor Bloomberg’s NYC, where the number of bike paths in the city has multiplied to make the city greener and safer for bicyclists.

Bike safety tips

Below are some safety tips to help our bicyclists stay safe.

1. Obey traffic lights, stop signs, one-way streets and other basic traffic laws. A bicyclist has the same rights and duties on the road as drivers of other vehicles, and additional responsibilities.

2. Ride as far “as practicable” to the right (or to the outside lanes on a one-way street), particularly when traffic is moving faster than you are.

3. Be prepared to yield at all times.

4. Use hand signals when turning or moving from a lane.

5. Yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. Give audible warning when passing a pedestrian.

6. Keep at least one hand on your handlebars. Keep control of your bicycle at all times.

7. Saddlebags, racks, baskets, and backpacks are all good ways to carry packages, as they free your hands for safe riding.

8. Use a headlight with a white light visible from ahead, and a red reflector/light visible from behind, when riding from sunset to sunrise or whenever visibility is poor. Wear reflective clothing as well.

9. Keep brakes adjusted so that, when braked, your bicycle skids on clean, dry pavement.

10. Ride astride a fixed seat. Riding “double” is discouraged.

11. Ride no more than two abreast.

Steven M. Gursten is an accident lawyer and partner of Michigan Auto Law. He handles bike accidents, and received the top verdict for a car or truck accident in the state for 2008, 2009 and 2010, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

– Safety tips provided by Northville Township Police

Related information to protect yourself:

The truth about delayed and missed traumatic brain injury diagnosis

Michigan bike accident lawyer on anti-bike bias by police

Symptoms of traumatic brain injury

Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights to better serve you. Call (248) 353-7575 for a free consultation with one of our Michigan bike accident lawyers.

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