Portland, ME - A Portland attorney said more education is needed to reduce the risk of bicycle accidents, which cause severe injuries and cost billions of dollars a year.
"Drivers tend to see bicycles as a nuisance, and take more risks around them," said attorney Joe Bornstein. "Also, some bicyclists don't obey the rules of the road as they should. This ends up causing accidents and people get seriously hurt."
According to the Maine Department of Transportation, there were 189 reported crashes involving bicycles in the state in 2015, with more than 94% involving injuries.
Bornstein said he hoped the Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety and Responsibility Act, a state law passed in 2015, will help gradually reduce bicycle accidents. The law requires driver education programs to include courses about protecting the rights and safety of "vulnerable users," which include bicyclists. It also clarifies the responsibilities of bicyclists on the road.
But Bornstein said more needs to be done.
"Bicycle accident injuries can be devastating," he said. "Both physically and financially."
A study published in Injury Prevention magazine estimated that national adult bicycle injury costs, including medical expenses and lost income, totaled $24.4 billion in 2013.
Because bicyclists have little protection in a crash, serious injuries such as broken bones, head injuries and back injuries are common. These injuries can leave victims unable to work and can even cause permanent damage. Unfortunately, fatalities are also common.
Bornstein said he supports the work of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, a bike advocacy group founded in 1992 dedicated to promoting bicycling and working to pass laws aimed at reducing accidents.
The group is currently advocating for passage of the Traffic Safety Education Act, which would require students in Maine to receive one hour of age-appropriate traffic safety education each year, starting in the second grade.
Bornstein said more education, for children and adults, can only help more people realize that everyone on the road is responsible for preventing bicycle accidents.
"I've handled many cases involving bicycling injuries that just didn't have to happen," he said. "So many accidents could be prevented if we all followed the rules of the road."