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 helmet on before they even test out their first pair of training wheels.
Statistics show that apart from automobiles, bicycles are related to more childhood injuries than any other consumer product. According to Safe Kids USA , every two minutes a child is treated in a hospital emergency room with a bicycle-related injury. 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 helmets is having a positive impact on the number of injuries occurring while bike riding.
"Traumatic brain injury and fatal head injury among kids on bicycles can be prevented by wearing a helmet," says David Aguilar, Injury Prevention Coordinator at Children's Health℠. "We urge parents to find the right helmet for your child and make wearing a helmet a requirement for getting on anything with wheels – including bicycles, skates or skateboards."
Bicycle safety checklist for kids
Teach your child to do a bike safety check before they ride. Ask these questions:
- 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 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.
- 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.
Find the right bicycle helmet
Helmets are not one-size-fits-all. To keep your child safe, follow these tips to find the right bicycle helmet:
- 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 for the right activity. Never let your child wear, for example, a football helmet to ride a bike.
- Find the perfect fit. Place the helmet on your child's head. The rim should be one to two finger-widths 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.
Bike safety rules of the road
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:
- Stop before riding into the roadway from a driveway, sidewalk, parking lot or another streets.
- Look left, right and left again to check for cars. If the road is clear, enter.
- Ride on the right side of the road, in the same direction as traffic. If there is a bike path, consider riding there.
- Wear brightly colored clothes so cars can see you, especially at night.
- Obey all traffic signals and stop signs.
- Use hand signals to let cars know that you are going to be turning. Look back and yield to traffic coming from behind before turning left.
- Ride bicycles in single file.
- Watch for uneven pavement or other surface problems that could cause you to crash.
- Avoid hard braking on gravel or similar surfaces, as this can cause a bicycle to slide out of control.
- 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.
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