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Champion marathoner Sally Meyerhoff dies in bicycle-car accident

Sally Meyerhoff, a 27-year-old champion marathoner and qualifier for the 2012 Olympic marathon trials, was killed on March 8 while riding her bike in Maricopa, Arizona. The former All-American from Duke University died instantly after she apparently collided with a truck while she was riding.

The tragic bicycle accident sparked CBS News, among others, to focus on how to prevent the hundreds of thousands of car-bicycle wrecks that happen every year in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bicycle accidents are responsible for more than 500,000 people serious injuries and over 700 wrongful deaths each year in the U.S. When bicyclists are injured in car accidents, the result is commonly a brain injury, a spinal cord injury, or other catastrophic injuries.

Serious and fatal accidents cannot be prevented by the bicyclist alone -- drunk or distracted drivers, road rage and simple negligence all too frequently result in tragedy for bikers, and kids are at the greatest risk.

Still, bicyclists can take steps to protect themselves. Wearing a helmet can dramatically reduce the chance of a head injury -- by more than 85 percent.

Here are some bicycle safety tips collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and CBS News:

Wear a properly fitting helmet: For a good fit, bicycle helmets should fit snugly and sit flat on the head.

Check that your bike is properly adjusted before riding: Don't ride a bike that doesn't fit your size, and check that your handlebars and wheels are securely fixed to the bike. Don't carry things in your hands -- add a carrier or wear a backpack.

Make sure quick-release wheels are firmly attached:If your cycle has quick-release wheels, make sure they are firmly in position and any safety retainer is in place.

Check your brakes before you head out: Your brake pads should be no more than 1/8" from the wheel rim, and hand-brake levers should not touch the handlebars when fully applied. Make sure your brakes are in a condition to stop your bike quickly.

Wear high-visibility clothing, such as neon or fluorescent colors and clothing with reflective stripes.

Avoid biking after dark: If you do ride at night, don't assume that drivers can see you. Children should never ride at night.

Never wear headphones while biking -- they can make it hard to hear oncoming traffic or horns.

Check for traffic by looking left, then right, and then left again: Over 70 percent of bicycle accidents happen at intersections -- or at driveways. Always check for traffic and signal before you turn.

Obey traffic laws: Signal your moves and be courteous to other drivers. If you can, ride in bike lanes or on bike paths instead of amidst vehicle traffic.

Stay alert for obstacles, even on familiar roads:Unexpected obstacles such as potholes, cracks, leaves, puddles, ice and road debris can appear at any time. Railroad tracks, drainage grates, and other rough services can cause you to fall -- cross them at a 90-degree angle, if possible.

As spring arrives and more bicyclists head out on the road, please be attentive and keep an eye out for bikers and pedestrians.


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