Bicycle & Auto Safety Tips

For your driving safety, we have provided the following safety tips for for being a part of traffic while operating either a car or bicycle. This page is regularly updated, so continue to visit it for the most current Traffic Safety Tips


Using a bicycle as your primary means of transportation can be fun, cost effective, and help keep you physically fit. However, bicycle riding poses many risks, even for the experienced rider.

Scraped knees and elbows are commonplace, but even a minor spill may result in serious head and brain injury. Statistics show that between 70-80% of all fatal bicycle crashes involve head injuries. Although helmet usage is very low (15-18%), studies have proven that bicycle helmets are 85-88% effective in mitigating total head and brain injuries.

In addition to using helmets and knee pads, keep in mind the following safety tips:

  • Check safety equipment before starting.
  • Obey all traffic laws.
  • Ride in single file.
  • Ride as close to the right edge of the road as possible.
  • Avoid riding at night.
  • Keep both hands on the handlebars.

Make Sure Your Bike Fits

To ensure comfort, a properly fitted bicycle is a must. The following guidelines will aid you in achieving a good bicycle fit.

  • Frame Size – There should be 2-3 inches of clearance between the rider’s crotch and the top-tube while straddling the bicycle.
  • Saddle Height – The single most important aspect of body positioning is saddle height. It influences how effectively power is delivered from your legs to the pedals. Proper saddle height reduces knee strain and thereby reduces the likelihood of knee fatigue or injury.

Adjust the saddle so that when seated, your heels rest solidly on the pedals. Pedal backwards. If your pelvis rocks from side to side in order to keep your heels on the pedals at the bottom of the stroke, the saddle is too high. Lower the seat until your heels remain on the pedals while pedaling backwards. When saddle height is properly adjusted, rocking from side to side will no longer occur.

Legs should not be fully straight while cycling. A proper riding position requires legs to be approximately 95% extended at the bottom of the stroke, with the balls of the feet squarely placed on the pedals.

  • Saddle Tilt – The saddle should comfortably support most of your body weight. Body weight should be centered on the saddle, with your arms flexed and relaxed.

Seat post and handlebar stems are inscribed by the manufacturer with marks establishing the maximum adjustment (max. adj.) height. Never raise a seat post or handlebar stem higher than these marks. There must be sufficient post or stem inside the frame to support the stress and weight. Insufficient stem or post inside the frame may cause the top part of the tube to break off.

Bicycle Helmet & Accessories

Seventy-five percent of bicycling fatalities are due to head injuries incurred as a result of cyclists falling and striking their heads. Wearing a bicycle helmet with the chin strap secured is mandatory when operating a bicycle. To be effective, the helmet must fit properly and sit level on your head.

When purchasing bicycle helmets for you and your family, look for helmets that meet or exceed the standards set by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) or the Snell Memorial Foundation.

Use of shatter-resistant protective eye wear and half-finger bicycling gloves is also recommended. Gloves reduce hand fatigue caused by continually gripping the handlebars and also offer some protection for your palms in case of a fall.

Pre-Ride Inspection

To ensure overall safety, this A-B-C QUICK CHECK procedure should be performed before you ride your bicycle.

  • Air – Check tire pressure and inflate to recommended maximum pressure. Look for damage and tread wear.
  • Brakes – Examine brake pads, cables and housings. Ensure that all brake pads open and close together and operate smoothly.
  • Crank – Check for bearing play in crank and headset.
  • Quick Release – Many bicycles are equipped with quick-release axles rather than the traditional thread and nut type of wheel axle. Make sure any quick-release devices are tightened and tires secured to the frame.
  • Component Check – Check bicycle components and ensure all are functioning properly by taking a slow ride in an area free of traffic, such as a parking lot. Bicycles should also be lightly bounced on the ground while you listen for anything that may be loose.

Good Cycling Practices

A bicycle is recognized legally as a vehicle and must be driven in a manner consistent with any other vehicle on the road. Although a bicycle is very maneuverable, this does not mean a cyclist can violate traffic laws with impunity. Always follow the rules of the road, and obey all traffic laws.

Bicycles are relatively quiet. Pedestrians and other traffic may not be aware of you. You must communicate your presence or intentions to pedestrians and other traffic when changing lanes, turning or passing. Cyclists should choose routes that are convenient and safe; try not to ride in extremely heavy traffic.

A cyclist should always exercise due caution. The following are some basic cycling guidelines:

  • Lane Position – Usually you should ride in the extreme right lane to your desired destination. Other acceptable lane positions are just to the right of the motorized traffic when the lane is wide enough to safely share the center of the lane, or slightly to the right of the center (the right-hand tire track).
  • High Speed – If able to keep up with the flow of traffic, use the entire lane — take the lane.
  • Lane Changing – Plan ahead, look behind and signal your intentions. Act carefully, smoothly and deliberately. Never move in front of another vehicle so closely as to constitute a hazard.
  • Turning Lane – When using a turning lane, maintain your position in the right-hand side of the lane throughout the turn. This technique will enable you to end up in the right lane on the street you are turning on to, without crossing in front of traffic that may be either behind or along side of you.

Bicycle Breaking

When either brake is applied, additional weight is transferred to the front wheel. The more weight a wheel supports, the more effective the applied braking force; therefore, the tendency to skid is lessened.

Applying excessive pressure to only the rear brake causes shifting of weight to the front of the bicycle and decreases the weight on the rear wheel. Since the rear wheel is now supporting less weight, it will have a tendency to skid, and thus decrease the ability of the bike to stop.

Applying excessive pressure to the front brake shifts weight to the front wheel, but in this case the weight transfer increases the effectiveness of the brake. However, it is dangerous to apply the front brake too hard, as the rear wheel may lift off the road and the rider may be pitched over the handlebars. Braking with the rear brake alone will avoid pitchover but is not very effective in stopping the bicycle.

The best system for a fast and safe stop is to use both brakes in a 3:1 front-to-rear ratio. If the rear wheel starts to skid, this indicates that your weight is unevenly distributed, and you should ease up slightly on the front brake. When braking hard, slide your body to the rear as far as possible.

Recognizing Hazards

Hazards that commonly affect cyclists fall into three categories: surface, visual and moving.

  • Surface hazards commonly include holes and cracks in the pavement, road edge deterioration or drop off, curb and gutter joints, expansion joints, differences in pavement height or grade, loose sand, debris or glass, skewed railroad tracks, drainage/manhole covers, and standing water.
  • Visual hazards include environmental conditions (sun glare, darkness, fog, smoke, etc.), obstructed view by parked or moving vehicles, fences and landscaping, buildings, and pedestrians.
  • Moving hazards include motor vehicles, other approaching cyclists (in either direction), opening car doors, vehicles pulling out from parking spaces, pedestrians, and animals.
  • When going over small obstacles (such as curbs), the obstacle should be approached from a perpendicular angle, the front wheel straight and the pedals parallel to the ground. The rider should assume a crouched position and stand on the pedal rather than remain seated to enable the legs to act as shock absorbers.

Motor Vehicles

Vehicle Operation

While carjacking and other vehicular crimes have received considerable attention of late, they still occur relatively infrequently. Nevertheless, there are several ways you can protect yourself and your passengers while driving:

  • Plan alternative routes to your destination. That way, if your regular route is closed or inaccessible, you can reach still reach your destination safely, on familiar territory.
  • Keep your car in good running condition, and keep the tank at least a quarter full (or greater in winter, to avoid gas line freezing).
  • Lock all doors and keep windows rolled up at all times-even if you are driving for only a short distance.
  • Remain alert at all times. Keep the radio off or at a low volume to help remain alert, and don’t become distracted during calls on your car phone.
  • Take special care when stopped in traffic for anyone approaching your vehicle. Sound your horn to attract attention if approached by a suspicious person. Drive away to a well-lit and secure area.
  • Sometime carjackers or thieves driving behind you will bump your rear fender, expecting you to pull over right away. If your vehicle is tapped in the rear, do not pull over, especially at night or in unfamiliar places. Instead, drive to a well-lit, secure area with other people such as a gas station or, better still, a police facility to report the accident.
  • Avoid asking strangers for directions.
  • Never pick up hitchhikers.
  • If your car breaks down, raise the hood and place emergency reflectors or flares. Then stay in the locked car. When someone stops to help, do not get out. Ask the person, through a closed or cracked window, to telephone the police for help.

Vehicle Operation In Extreme Weather

Although both weather systems (rain & snow) create hazardous conditions, warmer wet roads bring special dangers. The initial sprinkle of rain creates a slicker surface due to the separation of water and oil buildup on the street. It is at this point that drivers should be especially careful and realize that it will take longer to stop, even with anti-lock brakes.

The extreme of water and oil buildup on streets is hydroplaning. This condition occurs at higher speeds during heavy rains or where standing water exists. Traction is greatly reduced as water builds up under the tire, making any driving maneuver difficult to execute. Other hazards include hidden potholes, large debris or glass, and elevated sewers. As always, drivers should reduce speed in inclement weather and be conscious of potential road hazards.

Vehicle Operation Around School Buses

Each year in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an average of 41 school-age children die in school bus-related traffic crashes — 11 school bus occupants and 30 pedestrians. To help prevent such tragedies in North Brunswick, your police officers are paying special attention to pedestrian and vehicular traffic around school buses.

Here are some basic safety laws and tips that drivers of school buses and other vehicles should consider at all times:

  • School buses transporting school-aged children must stop at all railroad crossings (New Jersey Statutes 39:4-128).
  • Note: New Jersey law allows for limited railroad crossing stop exemptions. This is the case with the railroad crossing on Jersey Avenue in the area of the Route 1 interchange.
  • When loading or discharging children, school bus drivers must signal their intentions with flashing red lights and extended stop signal arms (New Jersey Statutes 39:3B-1).
  • Vehicles in traffic shall not overtake or pass any school bus stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging children. Drivers may proceed when directed by the bus driver or when the visual signals are no longer activated (New Jersey Statutes 39:4-128.1).

For more information about school bus safety, including safety tips for children, visit NHTSA’s School Bus Safety page.

Parking & Parked Cars

Personal Safety

  • When approaching your vehicle, have your keys in hand, ready to open the door. The few seconds you save fumbling for your keys may keep you from becoming a victim.
  • Be especially alert when using enclosed parking garages. Remember exactly where you parked your vehicle. Don’t walk into an area if you feel uncomfortable.
  • Leave only your ignition key with a parking lot attendant. Don’t leave your trunk key (if different) or your house or work keys, as someone may make copies while you are out.
  • Always look inside the car before entering. An intruder may be crouched on the floor of the back seat.
  • Avoid “smash and grab” crimes (incidents in which an offender breaks a car window and steals valuable items) by placing purses, packages, and other valuables under the front seat or, better still, in the trunk.
  • If you see someone tampering with your vehicle, use discretion about approaching the person. He or she may be armed. Instead, call 9-1-1 and inform the dispatcher that you are reporting an auto theft “in progress.”

Deterring & Responding To Theft

Most people take preventive measures after they have been victimized. Thus, we encourage you to take the measures in order to avoid becoming a victim. Following some of the common-sense measures listed below may have prevented many of these incidents that occurred.

  • Always try to park in well-lit, heavily traveled areas, as close to your destination as possible.
  • When you park, always roll the windows up tight, lock all doors, and take the keys with you.
  • Never leave your car with the motor running, even if only for a minute to run into a store or your home.
  • Do not leave valuable items in the vehicle, even in the glove compartment or under the seat. Car thieves routinely check these location especially for cellular phones, cameras, license/insurance information, and other items.
  • If you have a garage, use it; lock both your car and the garage.
  • Keep your vehicle title at home, not in the glove compartment of your car. This will prevent a thief from using the title to “prove” ownership.
  • Consider etching your VIN into all car windows, T-tops, and other expensive, removable parts. This will help the police identify stolen auto parts.
  • Install and activate anti-theft device or devices and always use them.
  • Carry your license, insurance card and registration in your wallet. Thieves use these documents to impersonate you! If you don’t want to carry this information, copy them and hide them in the vehicle.
  • If your vehicle is broken into or stolen, inform the police of the loss immediately. Stolen vehicles frequently are used in the commission of other crimes.
poster outlining the ways to avoid auto related theft

Buckle Up North Brunswick

On January 18, 2010, legislation was signed into law requiring all occupants to buckle up,regardless of their seating position in a vehicle. A secondary offense, the new law allows police to issue summonses to unbuckled back seat occupants, 18 years of age an dolder, when the vehicle they are riding in is stopped for another violation.The law is effective immediately.

Although many Americans are now “buckling up” on long road trips, it is the short trips, at low speeds, that lead to the greatest number of crashes.
Consider the following statistics:

  • About 75 percent of all crashes occur within 25 miles of home.
  • Sixty percent of fatal crashes or crashes involving injuries occur on roads with posted speed limits of 40 miles per hour or less.

As these statistics indicate, wearing safety belts every day — every time you ride in a vehicle, even for a short trip — can greatly reduce the chance of serious injury or death. Nationally, an estimated 9,000 lives were saved by the use of safety belts in 1994.

Safety belt usage for you and your family is a win-win situation. Remember North Brunswick, buckle up!

Kids Aren’t Cargo

Pickup trucks are increasingly becoming a popular means of family transportation. However, pickup trucks are not required to meet all passenger car safety standards. Parents should be aware that child restraints are designed for use on forward facing seats and are not suitable for jumpseats. Jumpseats are too small to support the base of most child restraints. The bench seat may not be wide enough to support a child restraint. In addition, there may not be enough room between the front and back seats to allow for the expected forward movement of a child’s head in a crash.

A recent Washington state study found the fatality risk to be 10.4 times higher for persons riding in pickup cargo areas, either with or without a canopy. Although most parents would not consider allowing an infant to ride in the cargo areas, they may be tempted to allow older children or adults to ride “in the back.” More than half of the over 200 deaths per year of persons riding in cargo beds were children and teenagers. Most non-collision deaths were caused by falls due to swerving, braking or rough roads.

The Motor Vehicle and Traffic Laws of New Jersey specifically forbids such activity. 39:4-69 states, “No person shall ride on, and no operator shall knowingly allow a person to ride on a street car or vehicle, or on a portion thereof not designed or intended for the conveyance of passengers.” So remember — kids aren’t cargo.