South Carolina Bicycle Helmet Law

There is no federal law in the U.S. requiring bicycle helmets; 22 states have passed laws requiring at least some bike riders to be helmeted, usually those under 18 years of age. South Carolina has no bicycle helmet law. So those bicyclists you see who are not wearing a helmet are not breaking the law… but they are flirting with disaster. Bicycle wrecks often cause head injuries. The Snell Memorial Foundation, whose mission is to improve helmet design and encourage their use, offers the following cautionary statistics:

  • Every year the estimated number of bicycling head injuries requiring hospitalization is more than the total of all the head injury cases related to baseball, football, skateboards, kick scooters, horseback riding, snowboarding, ice hockey, in-line skating and lacrosse.
  • Estimated indirect costs for injuries to un-helmeted cyclists are $2.3 billion yearly.
  • In bicycle crashes, 2/3 of the dead and 1/8 of the injured suffered brain injuries.

Each year, the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) conducts a campaign to increase awareness about brain injuries — their causes, costs and treatment.

We’re all aware that traumatic brain injuries are often suffered in motor vehicle wrecks, and we’ve seen how car and truck design and technology have combined to protect occupants of these four-wheeled vehicles. But many people choose two-wheeled transportation, and as our weather warms up, you’ll be seeing lots of tiny tots and energetic elders out for a bike ride.

Every single one of them should be wearing a helmet… but many won’t be.

A fairly inexpensive bike helmet can reduce the severity of a head injury, but Insurance Institute for Highway Safety statistics for the past few years reflect the sobering fact that no more than 17 percent of fatally injured bicyclists were wearing helmets.

How Well Do Helmets Work?

Very well indeed, according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. When they are fitted and worn correctly, helmets provide a 66 to 88% reduction in the risk of head, brain and severe brain injury for bicyclists of all ages.

Correct Fit is the Key

In general, a bicycle helmet should sit level on your head, touching all around, comfortably snug but not tight and should not move more than about an inch in any direction. The website of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has detailed instructions and diagrams to help you select and adjust a bike helmet so that you get maximum protection.

How Does a Helmet Prevent Brain Injuries?

It’s not just a matter of putting some comfy foam padding between your head and the hard, rough ground. Brain injuries from a sudden bike crash are similar to those that can be sustained in a car crash: Although the vehicle stops moving, the tissue inside the skull doesn’t. A helmet helps the head slow down gradually by cushioning the blow with specialized foam that crushes and doesn’t bounce back, and the plastic shell helps by allowing the head to slide over the ground so the neck doesn’t get wrenched.

According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (BHSI), during a crash a helmeted head comes to a stop in about 6 thousandths of a second, compared to the 1 thousandth of a second for a bicyclist who wrecks without a helmet on. Even milliseconds count in keeping the brain from reaching what they call “the injury threshold.” We like their comparison of a helmet to a thumbtack:

When thumbtacks are used correctly, the wall is pierced, not the thumb. The flat of the thumbtack spreads the force over a broad area of thumb and the sharp point concentrates that same force against a small area of the wall. In the same way, a good helmet spreads concentrated forces from a rock or any irregular impact surface over a broad area of the helmet’s protective liner and the wearer’s scalp and skull. Instead of slicing through flesh and skull, the forces are redirected by the helmet. Not wearing a helmet is comparable to misusing a thumbtack, except that hardly anyone dies of thumb injuries.

Not a One-Time Buy

You don’t have to shell out big bucks to get an adequate bike helmet. The BHSI conducted lab tests on inexpensive helmets from Big Box stores and pricy ones from swanky bike shops and found very few differences in performance. That’s a good thing, because helmets do need to be replaced from time to time.

To begin with, anytime a bike helmet has been dropped or impacted in a crash, it must be replaced. Bicycle helmets are designed to protect against a single severe impact; the foam material is designed to crush, once and for all. Even you can’t see cracked or crunched foam, the helmet must be replaced.

Another reason to buy a new helmet is to take advantage of improvements in design and materials. The U.S. government safety standards for bike helmets have evolved over time, and you want yours to bear a CPSC, ASTM or Snell sticker.

Protect your brain with a helmet… don’t just think about it.

Promoting Brain Injury Awareness

The Brain Injury Association of America is partnering with Nutcase, the Portland-based maker of helmets for biking and other sports, to help raise awareness about brain injury during the month of March. Nutcase will be donating $2 from each helmet sale through their website (http://www.nutcasehelmets.com) this month. They’ve got all sizes and designs that will make anyone feel cool.

If you’re like most parents nowadays, you’re looking every year for something to make your child’s birthday party special. Pin the Tail on the Donkey gave way long ago to more adventurous activities, things like the increasingly popular bounce house, set up in your own backyard by one of thousands of party rental companies. Kids think they’re loads of fun, and parents assume they’re safe… that is, until an accident happens and a child is injured or killed. You should be aware that injuries on inflatable amusement structures are not uncommon.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that more than 4,000 emergency room visits a year in the United States are linked to inflatables. Bounce houses (also known as moon-bounces) cause the vast majority of injuries, but they’re not the only inflatable amusement attractions. Slides, obstacle courses, climbing walls and interactive (such as boxing or jousting) inflatables also feature in the accident statistics.

Nor are inflatables found only at birthday parties. They’re popular attractions at church and school events, fairs, festivals, grand openings and athletic competitions. As their popularity has increased over the last decade, so have injuries and fatalities. A report from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, says that in 2010 alone, 30 children a day were treated for these injuries in hospital emergency departments. The number of injuries increased from 702 in 1995 to 11,311 in 2010.

Injuries sustained in inflatables include concussions, neck injuries, broken bones, and cuts and bruises. By far, the most dangerous inflatable attractions are bounce houses. The largest number of injuries in these occur to children between the ages of 3 and 11 years old. Just last month there were two such accidents in the news:

  • On May 12, 2014, in South Glen Falls, N.Y., two boys, 5 and 6 years old, were seriously injured when they fell out of a privately owned 10-by-10 bouncy castle. The structure was staked to the ground, but strong winds lifted it at least 50 feet in the air. One boy landed on a parked car and the other fell to the asphalt. They were airlifted to a medical center with head injuries and broken bones.
  • On May 31, 2014, a bounce house in Littleton, Colo., was picked up by a gust of wind, tumbling 300 feet across an athletic field during a lacrosse tournament. It was “like a bag in the wind,” according to one observer. Two 10-year-olds were injured, one hospitalized. This accident was similar to one in 2011 during a soccer tournament in Oceanside, N.Y., when 13 children were injured in a bounce house.

Even worse than serious injuries are the fatalities suffered on inflatable structures. Since 2002, the CPSC has documented 4 U.S. deaths involving different inflatable attractions:

  • In 2002, a 21-year-old man in Florida broke his neck and died while jumping in an inflatable bounce.
  • In 2003, a 15-year-old boy in Illinois died four days after he fell off an inflatable obstacle course slide and sustained a traumatic brain injury.
  • In 2004, an 18-year-old Minnesota male died from a head injury suffered in a fall from an inflatable slide.
  • In 2005, a 25-year-old woman in Massachusetts died after falling from a 28-foot inflatable climbing wall and striking her head on pavement.

You’ll note that those killed were between the ages of 15 and 25, whereas most nonfatal injuries occur in children aged 3 to 11.

What are the causes of inflatable ride injuries? Environmental conditions (wind, rain), operator error (inattentive, untrained), equipment failure (worn cables, faulty patches, sudden deflation due to blower failure), overcrowding, rough housing, and mixing of age groups.

Who is responsible for the safety of inflatable amusements? The CPSC regulates how amusement rides are manufactured, but there is no federal oversight as to how they are set up, maintained or operated. That is left up to the states, and the rules vary widely. In South Carolina, the regulation and inspection of amusement rides is done by the Office of Elevators and Amusement Rides – but they do not regulate or inspect air-supported structures.

So how can you protect your children, and maybe even yourself, from injury on an inflatable?

  • Avoid use during high winds.
  • Make sure there is a tarp on the ground to protect the bottom of the unit.
  • Check to see that the inflatable is moored to the ground using every anchor point provided plus sandbags or weights.
  • There should be no visible rips or tears.
  • The unit should be fully inflated and not saggy.
  • A responsible adult must supervise the inflatable amusement ride at all times.
  • Before being allowed to enter an inflatable unit, people should remove shoes, jewelry, eyeglasses, hair clips, and other sharp objects that may injure others.
  • No food, drink or gum allowed in the unit.
  • No flips or rough play allowed in a bounce house.
  • Do not let children sit or lie down while others bounce.
  • If winds pick up or you see rain or lightning, get everyone out of the inflatable and turn off the blower motor.

“They are spreading like fast-food hamburger joints.” That’s what Mike Teske told the Los Angeles Times, and he wasn’t talking about nail salons. Teske is the technical director for a zip line company, and he also heads a panel drafting national safety standards for zip lines. Zip lines are the latest commercial adventure craze, offering thrills to at least 18 million people each year, according to the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT).

In addition to thrills, however, zip lines also lead to spills and serious personal injuries – especially makeshift lines which are not safely designed or maintained. A few years ago, 16-year-old David Coleman and his friends were riding a makeshift zip line between trees over the Saluda River. David’s hand got caught in the wire and was severed from his arm. After a 26-hour surgery at Duke University Hospital, the hand was reattached and the young man began a long rehabilitation. As bad as that accident was, it could have been worse: In recent years, deaths have occurred from homemade zip lines in Connecticut, Idaho, North Carolina, Oregon and Tennessee.

The dangers presented by zip line rides are the reason the ACCT and ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) are working on national safety standards for commercial zip lines. Only a few states have adopted regulations for zip line rides (Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia), so, as with many things, it’s “buyer beware.”

Is a zip line ride on your bucket list? Are you planning to include an aerial adventure in your summer vacation plans, maybe on one of the lines in Myrtle Beach or crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina? Spend a little time inquiring about the company’s safety and inspection policies.

The Redwoods Group Foundation provides risk analysis and insurance for camps, community centers and playgrounds. They encourage scrutiny of zip lines from the standpoint of design, installation, maintenance and supervision.

Design and installation: Are the supports set in concrete or adequately braced? Is the cable of sufficient strength for the potential load? The low point of the cable arc should be low enough to prevent a rider from smashing into the post at the end of the line. Rollers should have guards to prevent injury to hands. The starting platform should not be dangerously high or unprotected and customers should be tethered while standing on the platform.

Maintenance: Are regular inspections conducted and documented? Daily inspections should be carried out on all starting platforms, carriage assemblies, riding handles or seats and safety harnesses. Bolts and clamps should be tightened to manufacturer specifications. Cable tension should be adjusted for both performance and safety. Padding on harnesses and braking systems should not be worn. One inspection company says cables should be replaced every three years. Before you dangle from a cable spanning a gorge, ask how old it is.

Supervision: Zip line riders should be monitored at all times by trained professionals and should be given a safety course before they take off. Employees should be trained in CPR and first aid and be present at both the beginning and the end of the course. Full body harness and helmets are recommended but are not always required. The harness should be attached to the cable at two independent points in case one fails. Underage or undersized riders should not be allowed.

Zip Lining Accidents

Many zip line injuries are severe and falls from a height due to an equipment malfunction are likely to be fatal. The most common injury suffered by aerial adventurers is bone fractures, often caused not by plunging from the middle of the span but by falling from the platform or crashing into the termination point.

The physical, emotional and financial trauma of a zip line accident is not the kind of challenge you want to undertake this summer. If you or your loved one suffers an injury due to a negligently designed or maintained zip line attraction, call the Louthian Law Firm at 888-440-3211. When something goes wrong, we’ll do everything in our power to make it right again.