Maryland was recently ranked in the top 10 bicycle-friendly states

Injuries from bicycle accidents result in over 500,000 people either being hospitalized or going to the emergency room annually for medical treatment.

In a recent Maryland Department of Transportation news release, Governor Martin O'Malley proudly announced that Maryland was ranked as the 7th most bicycle-friendly state in the nation, according to the annual evaluation performed by the League of American Bicyclists. According to the press release, the Bicycle Friendly States (BFS) ranking is predicated upon several factors such as: (1) infrastructure and funding that support things such as dedicated bicycle lanes; (2) educational programs that promote cycling; and (3) enforcement of bicycle-friendly laws that make cycling safer. The news release noted that Maryland will dedicate nearly $210 million over the next six years to fund programs supporting alternate means of transportation such as building dedicated bicycle lanes.

According to a notable Australian study on bike accidents published by Adelaide University, motor vehicle drivers are at fault approximately 80 percent of the time in bicycle accident crashes. Cyclists are at fault approximately 20 percent of the time. Four out of every 10 bicycle crashes involve an oncoming automobile turning right across the path of a cyclist who was continuing straight.

According to the National Institutes of Health, distracted drivers are the cause of an increasing share of bicyclist fatalities. The intoxication of motorists is also a significant factor in bicycle accident deaths and injuries. The largest number of Maryland's bicycle crashes, injuries and fatalities are clustered in urban areas such as the Washington and Baltimore metropolitan areas.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that hundreds die each year from bicycle accidents while half a million people seek medical care due to bicycle crash injuries. Medical costs and lost work productivity amount to around $5 billion each year. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Sciences, some of the more typical serious cycling crash injuries are fractures, broken collarbones and internal injuries. By far, the most serious type of injuries sustained in bicycle crashes are injuries to the head and brain such as traumatic brain injuries.

Making cycling safer

According to the Maryland Strategic Highway Safety Plan, Maryland's Department of Transportation aims to make cycling safer by promoting safety programs, which attempt to educate motorists about how they can safely share the road with cyclists. Engineering studies are also going to be pursued in an effort to make highway infrastructure safer for cyclists by creating more dedicated bicycle lanes. The goal is to significantly reduce the number of bicycle accident injuries and fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer the following bicycle safety tips:

• Always wear a helmet since this is your best protection against serious head injuries.

• Wear fluorescent clothing during daylight hours that can make you more visible to motorists than regular clothing.

• Wear retro-reflective clothing to make yourself more visible at night.

• Make sure that your bicycle has active front and rear lighting so you are seen at night.

• Obey the rules of the road.

Seeking compensation for injuries

While cyclists can take precautions to minimize their risk of injury from a bicycle accident, automobile drivers sometimes do not exercise due care for the safety of cyclists. Maryland law affords an injured person the right to sue someone who negligently caused his or her injury. If you or a loved one has been injured in a bicycle crash caused by a negligent motorist, you need to contact an attorney skilled at handling bicycle accident cases. The attorney will investigate the circumstances of the accident and offer you advice on how to go about seeking compensation.

Keywords: Maryland, bicycle, accidents