With spring on its way, people are ready to get out and ride their bicycles. In fact, Charleston is one of the top four cycling cities in West Virginia, hosting regular events like Bike To Work Day, where you can get free coffee and pastries. It’s an enjoyable pastime as well as an economical mode of transportation.
But before put your ride on the road, make sure you’re familiar with the laws surrounding it. Like a motorcycle, you’re more vulnerable to serious injuries while you’re riding a bicycle.
A bicycle is, in West Virginia law, still considered a “motor vehicle” (even though you’re the “motor.”) Bicycles and motorcycles still must follow traffic laws, and be especially careful. Drivers don’t always see you, and may do anything from fling open a car door in front of you to change lanes and knock you out of yours. An accident between a car and a bicycle can result in devastating injuries that wouldn’t happen between two auto drivers. (West Virginia Chapter 17C, Article 11, governing bicycle riders, is available online.)
Among other safety requirements, lights are required to be on your bicycle for riding at night. Install both a white one for the front and a bright red one for the back, and turn them on when required. Cars, motorcycles, pedestrians and other cyclists will be able to see you.
Wear A Helmet Every Time You Ride
One of the most essential pieces of safety equipment for a bicyclist is a helmet. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics show that 700 cyclists die every year in crashes, totaling 2% of all traffic accidents.
Surprising research shows that cycling is the top sport for traumatic brain injuries—even more than football. In children under 14, head injuries from cycling are double the number from football. While it might be more enjoyable to ride without a helmet, the risks outweigh the benefits.
New York Times health columnist Jane Brody is a strong proponent, after her own accident that could have left her with a serious brain injury had she not been wearing her helmet.
The NHTSA encourages every rider to wear a helmet regardless of experience since traumatic brain injuries and death are serious risks. Wearing a helmet increases your chances of survival by 88% while riding without one triples your chances of a fatal crash.
Helmet Laws In West Virginia
West Virginia law (§17C-11A-4) requires helmets to be worn by bicyclists aged 15 or under, whether they’re operating the bicycle (or tricycle) or riding as a passenger. It’s also illegal for a parent to permit their child or children to ride a bicycle without a helmet. Doing so can incur a $10 fine and/or two hours of community service in a child injury prevention program. There is no such state law for bicycling adults in West Virginia, but the city of Morgantown does require helmets for all ages since 1993.
The “freedom” and the decision to ride without a helmet comes with risks besides the ones of severe head injuries (and death.) West Virginia’s comparative fault clause that applies to car accidents can also apply to bicycling accidents. Just like a car accident, an insurance company may use the absence of a bicycle helmet to deny your claim, or at least get it reduced by a percentage.
Helmets are known to reduce brain injuries, and failing to wear a helmet could significantly impact your claim, thus reducing a settlement. You may still be able to make an injury claim, and it wouldn’t affect other bodily injuries. But without a helmet, you’ll have to work hard to prove that your injury could have happened even with a helmet.
You can deal with “helmet hair.” A traumatic brain injury lasts a lot longer. And if you’re unable to collect any damages because of comparative negligence, how will you be able to heal with a reduced settlement?
We Handle Bicycle Accidents Too
Even while wearing a helmet, you can be injured in a crash, but the helmet can save your life. It may not be your fault, and we can help you recover damages. Let us help you with your accident case so you can heal your injuries and get on with your life. Call The Love Law Firm at (304) 344-5683 to schedule your free consultation. We’ll talk with you about your case and discuss your options. We work on a contingency fee basis, so there’s no up-front expense.