Saturday, March 7, 2015

Nelayda Fonte Guest Opinion: Take necessary precautions when cycling, walking

News-Press Sunday 3/8/15 biking safety feature

Nelayda Fonte, Guest Opinion 

Lee County roads are not particularly friendly for cyclists and walkers, and Florida continues to be ranked as one of the most dangerous states in America for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Over a two-year period Lee Memorial Hospital's Regional Trauma Center received 6,062 trauma alerts that included pedestrians or bicyclists struck by an auto. Of these, 40 died.
These statistics are not surprising because the effect of speed goes from a 15 percent chance of fatality when traveling at 20 mph, to a 45 percent chance at 30 mph and 85 percent chance at 45 mph. Drivers need to be aware their cars can be a weapon.

The Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization reports Lee County has had one bicycle fatality, 28 bicycle injuries and 37 pedestrian injuries so far this year, through Feb. 22. Pedestrian crashes account for 3 percent of all traffic crashes but result in 20 percent of traffic fatalities. Bicycle crashes account for 2.2 percent of all traffic crashes and result in 4 percent of all injuries.

Unfortunately, Lee County has a high incidence of injuries from bike/pedestrian versus autos. Many roads have no bike paths or sidewalks to separate walkers or cyclists from vehicular traffic, and cars always win that match.

Just like buckling up in your car, helmets should always be worn when bicycling. Safety should not have to be legislated, but even when it is, people often do not heed the laws. Sadly, a head injury can be fatal or severely life altering.

Most pedestrian injuries include head injury, extremity injuries and occasionally abdominal trauma. Bicyclists show up with head injuries, abdominal injuries and some extremity injuries.
Medical costs vary by each individual, depending on the injury and length of hospital stay. The costs continue to pile up if the patient needs rehabilitation, or nursing home placement. The situation is made worse when a job is lost because of extended absence. All of this can put significant financial pressure on the patient and family.

Every citizen in Lee County can play a part in road safety. We must all recognize that the roads are not only for cars, but also are used bicyclists and pedestrians. Drivers need to keep their eyes on the road not only for what other cars are doing, but also for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Everyone has the right to travel around by his or her preferred means. Always make sure you are aware of your surroundings. Be respectful of those around you. Keep an eye out for bicyclists and pedestrians. Avoid distractions when driving. Remember it could be you or a loved one who is the pedestrian or bicyclist on the roadway.

Nelayda Fonte is a trauma surgeon with the Lee Memorial Hospital Regional Trauma Center.

Bicyclist safety tips
•Ride in the same direction of traffic on the street.
•Obey all traffic signs signals and lane markings
•Be visible. Use headlight and taillight when riding at night
•Wear a helmet
•Pay attention to your surroundings

Pedestrian safety tips
•If no sidewalks are present, walk against traffic
•Be visible
•Look left, right and left again before crossing
•Obey all traffic laws

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