Chances are good that you wouldn’t put a 5-year-old behind the wheel of your car. In fact, even the thought of a 16-year-old hurtling down the road in your motor vehicle might fill you with unspeakable dread. Why is this? Is it because you’re worried about your car’s safety, because you’re afraid a young person might play with and lose your fuzzy dice, or because you don’t trust your 16-year-old anymore than you did 11 years previous? Let’s hope none of these are the primary reason.
More probably, you dislike the idea of minors driving because, as inexperienced, relatively immature, possibly hormone-poisoned individuals, they are generally less than well-equipped to face the dangers of the road. They are not familiar with all the rules, risks, and responsibilities of driving and stand a higher chance of posing harm to themselves or to others. This is, of course, a valid concern.
Bicyclists are subject to the same rules as car drivers; a bicyclist’s knowledge of the road would, ideally, match a driver’s. Yet, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that approximately 70% of 5- to 15-year-olds (i.e., individuals who are rightly not entrusted with cars) in the U.S. ride bicycles. Now, a bicycle accident—while less likely to be expensive or to put an enormous capacity for harmful behavior at your child’s disposal—is more likely to result in serious harm to your child. The Alliance for Biking and Walking states that bicyclists below the age of 16, who comprise 40% of the bike-riding population, comprise almost 30% of the casualties. While they account for fewer accidents than the elderly, young bicyclists face a considerable threat on the road.
While all bicyclists in the U.S. are vulnerable to traffic accidents, young children are at a particular disadvantage when it comes to safely navigating the roads on a bicycle. Before allowing your child to embark on unsupervised bicycle trips, there are several risks that should be taken into account.
1. Children do not typically listen for traffic hazards.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Organization, the neurological structure of the human auditory faculty is not fully in place until the age of 13-15. Before that time, children cannot distinguish relevant noises from background haze. They are easily overwhelmed by the volume of aural information that bombards them in a street setting. Thus, they are easily caught unawares by an approaching vehicle that another rider might deftly have avoided. Allowing children to go bicycling in heavy traffic areas before they can process auditory signals is, therefore, discouraged.
2. Young children do not know what to look for.
Even though it is common protocol for every American to teach children to look left, right, and left before crossing a street, this does not prepare them to avoid every sort of danger. There are many precarious situations not included in vehicles approaching a crosswalk that are generally learned with age and experience. Young children can’t always be expected to know all the circumstances under which a car’s driver will experience difficulty seeing them—ascending a hill, turning a curve, or simply traveling at night or in a shaded area. Children should always be taught the specific hazards of the routes they take on a regular basis.
3. Children are not geared to think about consequences.
Everyone who has ever spent a substantial amount of time with children knows that they think primarily in terms of what they can get, what they can do, and where they can go RIGHT NOW. A child riding to school will naturally think less about the potential dangers of the commute than about getting to where they want to be. Impulse control is key to caution—and a quality that is best learned under guidance.
4. Children are not used to taking their safety into their own hands.
Until pubescence, children’s needs are met and safety ensured by their parents. It can be hard to understand that an adult will not always be there to protect them. The very real perils involved with bicycling should be emphasized to prevent recklessness, neglect to wear a helmet, and other dicey behaviors by individuals who have yet to appreciate their own mortality.
While taking these precautions can go far in keeping children safe, the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety estimates that around 42% of accidents between motorists and bicyclists are the fault of the motorist. If your diligence in teaching your child about safe bicycling practices is thwarted by a careless driver, you may require the help of a bicycle accident lawyer to recover compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and other incidentals of the accident. While it is always a good idea to be well-insured, you cannot always be sure to reap the full benefits of what you pay into without expert advisement. A bicycle accident lawyer is trained to ask the right questions to get the most out of insurance companies and even to go to court to plead the cause of their client. If you have been wronged by negligence and grasping insurers and are afraid to take on more financial burdens, rest assured—free consultations at the Christensen Law Firm is guaranteed.
To contact the best Utah bicycle accident lawyer for a discussion of your dilemma, your rights, and how to defend them, call us at 801-506-0800.