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Local ambulance group suggests safety tips during National Bike Month

Family bike rides are a great way to spend time together and teach children that fitness can be fun, but bicycle accidents also are a leading cause of trips to the emergency room during spring and summer months. Shoals Ambulance offers timely tips to keep families safe for National Bike Month in May.

More than 60 percent of bicycle injuries occurred in children and young adults ages five to 24, according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention. The CDC also reported that bicycle-related injuries resulted in more than 515,000 emergency room trips in 2010. The total estimated cost of injuries related to bicycle crashes is more than $4 billion annually due to medical costs and productivity losses, according to the National Safety Council.

Approximately 730 bicyclists were killed last year in the U.S. Most bicyclist deaths occur in urban areas at non-intersection locations.

“While bicycling is a fun summer activity, parents and children should take precautions to ensure they are protected,” said Blake Hargett, Shoals Ambulance operations supervisor. “Bicycle injuries can cause serious injury and even death. We encourage cyclists to always stay alert, follow traffic patterns and wear a helmet.”

In an effort to decrease the number of these avoidable accidents, Shoals Ambulance promotes safety and injury prevention through awareness and offers these tips:

Check your equipment. Inspect the tires, chain, brakes and gears and look for loose or worn parts.

Wear a helmet. One in eight bicycle injuries reported involves a brain injury. It is estimated that wearing a helmet could prevent up to 88 percent of those injuries.

Wear appropriate clothing and gear. Loose-fitting clothing and flip-flops can get caught in your bike and cause a fall. Wearing reflective clothing or tape will make you more visible at night.

Plan your route. If your children range in age and ability, start the ride by going around the neighborhood. When everyone is comfortable, move to a trail. Children under 10 should not ride near traffic.

Know the rules of the road. Bicyclists must follow traffic laws that apply to motor vehicles.

Always ride with traffic and obey traffic lights, signs, speed limits and lane markings.

Use correct hand signals in advance of a turn so that others can anticipate your actions.

Make eye contact or wave to communicate with motorists.

Courtesy and predictability are keys to safe bicycling.

Yield to pedestrians and other vehicles, as appropriate.

Check for traffic before entering a street.

When riding on a sidewalk, take extra caution at driveways and other intersections.

Never ride a bicycle while impaired. A bicycle is a vehicle. If you plan to drink, arrange for a safe ride home.

By following these basic guidelines, this family-friendly sport can be a healthy and fun outdoor adventure.