Spring has arrived and families are gearing up to enjoy the outdoors on their bikes. While inflating the tires and checking the brakes are important – a helmet is essential. I urge you--parents, caregivers, and children--to use your helmet each time you ride your bike – no matter how long or short the distance traveled.
Did you know...each year, approximately 135 children die from bicycle-related injuries and more than 267,000 nonfatal bicycle injuries occur. Helmets can reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by 88 percent; however, only 15 to 25 percent of children 14 and under usually wear a bicycle helmet. Helmets could prevent an estimated 75 percent of fatal head injuries and up to 45,000 head injuries to children who ride bikes each year.
I'm a parent of a 3-year-old and both my husband and I require she wear her helmet when she rides her tricycle. Not only is this protecting her now, but this rule gets her in the habit so we won't have fights about it later on when she's older. When we go on our evening walks and she's riding her tricycle beside us, she sometimes pleads with us to let her ride without the helmet. We give her two choices: walk beside us without a helmet or ride her tricycle with a helmet. The choice is hers, but riding without a helmet is not.
Here are some other bicycle safety tips:
- Make sure the helmet fits and your kids know how to put it on correctly. A helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position, and should not rock forward and backward or side to side. The helmet straps must always be buckled, but not too tightly. Safe Kids recommends the “Eyes, Ears and Mouth” test:
o EYES: Position the helmet on your head. Look up and you should see the bottom rim of the helmet. The rim should be one to two finger-widths above the eyebrows.
o EARS: Make sure the straps of the helmet form a "V" under your ears when buckled. The strap should be snug but comfortable.
o MOUTH: Open your mouth as wide as you can. Do you feel the helmet hug your head? If not, tighten those straps and make sure the buckle is flat against your skin.
- Make sure the bike is the right size for the child. There should be about 1-inch of clearance between the bike frame and the child’s groin when the child’s feet are flat on the ground. Also, make sure the bike is in good repair — reflectors are secure, brakes work properly, gears shift smoothly, and tires are tightly secured and properly inflated.
- Remember, bike helmets are for biking. Kids should not wear bike helmets on the playground (where the straps can get caught on equipment and cause injury) or for activities that require specialized helmets (such as skiing or football).
- Model and teach proper bicyclist behavior. Ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, not against it. Stay as far to the right as possible. Use appropriate hand signals and respect traffic signals, stopping at all stop signs and stop lights.
- When in doubt, get help. The sales staff at any bicycle shop or outdoor recreation store should be able to provide expert advice on fitting and adjusting bikes and helmets.