Whether it's a long ride along a trail or a short trip to the corner store, bicycle accidents resulting in head injuries are more common than many people think.
According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute's latest statistics, 43,000 cyclist were reported injured in traffic mishaps in 2007; one in eight of them had brain-related injuries and two-thirds of those resulted in death.
Brain damage, according to the institute's website, can cause learning disabilities, personality changes and "rob you of the ability to think clearly."
It also emphasized that 85 percent of the brain injuries can be prevented if the bicyclist wears a helmet.
Sgt. Brandon Deppen, the Warren City Police Department's community service officer and city bicycle safety instructor, said the state bicycle law mandates that all children under the age of 12 wear a helmet. It is also advised that all teens and adults do the same for safety reasons.
"It is also very important for everyone to have a properly-adjusted helmet before riding your bike," said Deppen. "Hundreds of thousands of people suffer head injuries each year from improper fit of their helmet. It is either too far back or too loose and doesn't provide any protection for them."
The bicycle safety section of PennDOT's website notes that it is important to "make sure the pads touch all around and the straps meet at a 'v' just under your ear. Make sure the chin strap is snug, but doesn't dig in and the length of the front and back straps should be adjusted to hold the helmet level on your head."
Deppen also advises before getting on a bike to make sure the seat is adjusted to the correct height, the tires are inflated properly and the brakes work properly.
"Each time you ride your bike you should do a routine inspection," said Deppen. "Make sure all the nuts and bolts are tight and everything is working correct."
To adjust the seat to the correct height, Deppen said when standing over the seat the rider's toes should touch the ground.
"We often see adults trying to ride the tiny BMX bikes around or a eight-year-old trying to ride a ten-speed which is too big for them," said Deppen. "Riding a bike that is not fit correctly can also injure you as well."
Deppen also said anyone riding at night should wear bright-color clothing and have reflectors on the bike. State law requires an operating headlight on the front of the bike and a red light in the back.
"It is stated in Pennsylvania Bike Law that the bicycle is considered a vehicle, so they can be cited for violating traffic laws," said Deppen. "Cars aren't looking for you, so you have to be vigilant for your own safety. A bike is much smaller than a car ... and a bike will never win in that battle if it is hit."