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Providence Personal Injury Lawyer > Blog > Bicycle Accidents > Even Though Bike Helmets Were Not Designed to Protect Against Impacts from Cars, Research Shows That Cars Negligently Drive Closer to Cyclists Wearing Helmets

Even Though Bike Helmets Were Not Designed to Protect Against Impacts from Cars, Research Shows That Cars Negligently Drive Closer to Cyclists Wearing Helmets

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During the COVID-19 lockdown, bicycle and associated equipment sales reportedly skyrocketed, likely due to bikes offering people the ability to get out of the house, while still staying relatively safe in terms of minimizing their exposure to the virus. However, what many people do not realize is that bike helmets are not designed to protect riders against the impacts of a bike coming into contact with a car. Unfortunately, the most current research on bike helmets indicates that their testing procedures are still very rudimentary, and not only fail to take into account motor vehicle accidents, but the potential for catastrophic injuries as well, such as concussions. The mistaken belief that bike helmets do protect against everything not only leads to a significant number of traumatic injuries every year, but too many deaths as well: According to statistics, in 2016, 50 percent of cyclists killed in car accidents were not wearing helmets; meaning that the other 50 percent killed were wearing helmets, and were still killed.

Still, the main problem lies with the motorists themselves, who, according to research, drive dangerously close to cyclists, especially when they are wearing helmets, as we discuss below.

The Worst Culprits & The Psychology of Treating Cyclists Differently

Not only do too many cyclists rely on helmets to provide protection against potential injuries when it comes to accidents, but many motorists rely on cyclists wearing helmets as well when they pass them on the streets; a phenomenon known as the “close pass overtakes,” whereby, according to research, many drivers assume that when a cyclist is wearing a helmet, they can drive even closer to them than when they are not because, even if an accident does occur, the cyclist will likely be uninjured due to the presence of their helmet. Specifically, according to the research, drivers got an average of 3.3 inches (or 8.5 centimeters) closer to bikes when the cyclist was wearing a helmet than when they were not.

Yet perhaps the most surprising revelation concerns the risks that larger vehicles (buses, trucks, etc.) are taking: While the average car passed approximately 4.4 feet away from a bike, trucks passed an average of 7.5 inches closer and buses a whopping 9 inches closer. Research results also reflected differential treatment of gender as well: Every vehicle provided an average of 5.5 more inches when passing a female versus male cyclist. 

The research indicates that this goes beyond motorists simply being absentminded and actually perceiving cyclists as being in a different “subculture” than they are, as well as assuming that cyclists who wear helmets must be more experienced than those who do not, and therefore less prone in general to getting in an accident.

How This Research Is Critical to Bicycle Accident Claims

In passing too close to cyclists, not only do motorists increase their chances of causing an accident that leads to catastrophic injuries for the cyclist, but they also leave the cyclist with less room to address obstacles present in the road, such as potholes, which can then indirectly lead to other accidents. This research is crucial for personal injury litigation in that not only can cyclists who have been injured by motorists while wearing helmets argue that the motorist negligently drove closer to them because they were (responsibly) wearing a helmet, but also that the cyclist took every precaution possible to minimize their own injury risks by wearing a helmet while riding their bike, and their injuries could not have been mitigated or minimized precisely because the driver was driving negligently close and helmets are not designed to protect against the consequences that can result when this occurs.

If You Have Been Hurt in A Rhode Island Bicycle Accident, Contact Our Office Today for A Free Consultation

Unfortunately, this problem is only exacerbated by the increasing problem of distracted driving, which is leading more and more drivers to pass too close to cyclists. If you or a loved one has been injured in a Rhode Island bike accident due to a negligent car driver, Providence bicycle accident lawyer Michael Kiselica is prepared to hold the driver accountable and help you and your family recover. Contact our office today to find out more about your options.

Resources:

sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060911102200.htm#:~:text=Bicyclists%20who%20wear%20protective%20helmets,passing%20vehicles%2C%20new%20research%20suggests.&text=He%20found%20that%20drivers%20were,he%20was%20wearing%20the%20helmet.

nytimes.com/2020/05/18/nyregion/bike-shortage-coronavirus.html

forbes.com/sites/carltonreid/2020/07/10/bicycle-helmets-not-designed-for-impacts-from-cars-stresses-leading-maker-giro/#4015d839cbd4

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