If you're a Baby Boomer or part of Generation X, you may or may not have worn a bicycle helmet when you cruised around the neighborhood with your friends. These days, we're a lot safer. Most kids learn to put their helmets on before they even test out their first pair of training wheels.
Statistics show that bicycles are related to more childhood injuries than any other consumer product apart from automobiles. According to Safe Kids USA, a child is treated in a hospital emergency room with a bicycle-related injury every two minutes. And out of 200,000 children treated, about 25,000 are treated for traumatic brain injuries.
The good news is that the increasing use of biking helmets positively impacts the number of injuries that occur while bike riding.
"Wearing a helmet can help prevent traumatic brain injury and fatal head injury among kids on bicycles," says David Aguilar, Injury Prevention Coordinator at Children's Health℠. "We urge parents to find the right helmet for their child and make wearing a helmet a requirement for getting on anything with wheels – including bicycles, skates or skateboards."
Bicycle safety for kids
Teach your child to do a bike safety checklist before they ride. Ask these questions:
- Are the tires inflated properly? Check that the tires are not over or under-inflated and that the bicycle is in good working condition. The tires should have information printed on them about the recommended inflation level.
- Does the bike fit? There should be one to two inches between your child and the top bar when they stand over the bike, and they should be able to place both feet flat on the ground when sitting.
- Is the seat in the right position? Your child's bike seat should align with the bicycle's frame. Adjust the seat height so your child can touch the ground and bend their knee slightly when their leg is fully extended. Your child's bike seat should be in line with the frame of the bicycle. Adjust the seat height, so it allows your child to touch the ground and bend their knee slightly when their leg is fully extended.
Find the right bicycle helmet
Helmets are not one-size-fits-all. To keep your child safe, follow these tips to find the safest bike helmet:
- Find the perfect fit. Place the helmet on your child's head. The rim should be one to two fingers-width above the eyebrows. Next, check the straps. Make sure the straps of the helmet form a "V" under your child's ears when buckled. The strap should be comfortable, but also tight enough to lie flat against the skin. This guide from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has more details on the perfect helmet fit.
- Look for a safety standard sticker. Check the inside of the helmet for a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Department of Transportation (DOT) or Snell sticker.
- Make sure the helmet fits the activity. Certain helmets are made for biking, skating and other sports. Be sure you fit helmets for the right activity. Never let your child wear, for example, a football helmet to ride a bike.
Bike road safety for kids
Once the equipment is safe and the child's helmet fits properly, it's time to talk to your child about the rules of the sidewalk or road. Teach your child to follow simple, smart cycling rules, including:
- Avoid hard braking on gravel or similar surfaces, as this can cause a bicycle to slide out of control.
- Look left, right and left again to check for cars. If the road is clear, enter.
- Obey all traffic signals and stop signs.
- Ride bicycles in a single file line.
- Ride on the right side of the road, in the same direction as traffic. If there is a bike path, consider riding there.
- Stop before riding into the roadway from a driveway, sidewalk, parking lot or another street.
- Use hand signals to let cars know that you will be turning. Look back and yield to traffic coming from behind before turning left.
- Watch for uneven pavement or other surface problems that could cause you to crash.
- Wear brightly colored clothes so cars can see you, especially at night.
- When riding on a bike path, keep to the right. Only pass to the left of a person and make sure you warn them before passing.
See more tips on summer safety to help kids your child safe, healthy and happy.