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Keeping it Covered: What You Need to Know About Bike Helmets

Many of us have memories of idyllic Michigan childhood summers in which riding our bikes featured prominently. Bikes represented fun and freedom, the wind whipping through your hair as you pedaled furiously to a friend's house or to the local park. These days, Michigan kids still love riding their bikes, but parents are more alert to safety issues than in generations past. For many kids, the wind doesn't whip through their hair when they ride, because that hair is plastered to their head by a bike helmet.

It may not sound like as much fun, but wearing a bike helmet is a very good idea--for adults as well as children.

Michigan Bicycle Helmet Law

Michigan is one of 29 states that do not have statewide bike helmet laws in place. Those that do have helmet laws apply them to children, typically those 16 and younger; adults are not required to wear bicycle helmets in any of the 50 states. In Southeast Michigan, Farmington Hills is the only city with a bike helmet ordinance.

If you're a fan of helmet-free cycling, then, you're in luck in Michigan. But you may not want to press that luck on Michigan's roadways. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in 2010, 616 people in the United States died in bicycle accidents. Of that number, 70 percent were not wearing helmets and 15 percent were (it is unknown whether the remaining 15 percent were wearing helmets). The difference is stark. In data for previous years, the contrast is even greater: from 1994 through 2009, the percentage of bicyclists not wearing helmets who were killed in accidents ranged from 83 to 97 percent.

Of course, a helmet can't prevent all injuries or fatalities. But based on these figures, it seems clear that cyclists who choose not to wear helmets are much more likely to suffer fatalities than those who wear them. For this reason, emergency medical workers and law enforcement agencies strongly encourage the use of bicycle helmets.

Proper Bicycle Helmet Use

If you're going to have a helmet for yourself or for your child, make sure it fits properly for maximum effectiveness. The helmet should sit level on the head and low on the forehead. If there are one or two finger-widths between the top of your eyebrow and the bottom of your helmet, it's positioned properly. The left helmet buckle should be centered under your chin, and the side straps should form a V under your ears, and slightly in front of them. The chinstrap should fit snugly; if you can fit more than one or two fingers under it, it's too loose. Secure straps with the rubber bands on the helmet. The helmet should not be able to wobble back and forth on your (or your child's) head.

And remember that helmet use is no substitute for knowing the rules of the road and being aware of your surroundings. Unfortunately, all too many drivers are oblivious to the bicyclists with whom they share the road. With hazards like texting and driving and other distracted driving on the increase, cyclists must be ever-vigilant to avoid danger.

If you've been involved in a cycling accident, whether or not you were wearing a helmet, your time to file a claim against the responsible party is limited. Contact the Law Offices of Marc J. Shefman without delay at 248-298-3003 or by e-mail at mshefman@shefmanlaw.com

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