Over 70% of children between the ages of 5 and 14 ride bicycles. Although a great form of exercise, riding a bike without protective gear can be dangerous. Next to motor vehicle-related injuries, bicycles injure more children than any other consumer product, according to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign.
Wearing a helmet whenever riding a bicycle should be an automatic habit. Helmets should fit properly on your child’s head and also be fastened correctly. A properly-fastened and fitting helmet does not move around on the head.
The importance of wearing a helmet
Bicycling is very popular–in fact, it is estimated that 80 million Americans ride bikes of many different types. According to SAFE KIDS, bicycle helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85%. However, many children resist wearing them. Allowing children to personalize their helmet may help persuade them to wear a helmet when riding their bike.
Selecting a helmet
Here are some suggestions when selecting a helmet:
- Helmets should be approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Snell Foundation, or the American Society for Testing and Materials.
- The helmet should fit comfortably and snugly. It should sit on your (or your child’s) head in a level position and not rock from side to side.
- The helmet should have a chin strap and buckle to keep the helmet in place.
- The helmet should be made out of a hard outer shell and an absorbing liner at least one-half inch thick.
Suggestions for preventing bicycle injuries:
- Avoid using a bike that is too large. You should be able to straddle the bike and stand with both feet flat on the ground.
- Younger children may need to ride a bicycle with training wheels so that they have better control of the bike.
- A child must be able to stop the bike by using the brakes.
- Learn the proper hand signals for left turns, right turns and stopping. Make certain you understand and observe all traffic signals and signs. Children who aren’t yet coordinated enough to use hand signals and still maintain control of their bike should not ride in the street.
- Children should ride on sidewalks until they are at least 10 or 11 years old.
- Look left, right, and left again, before riding into traffic from a sidewalk, driveway or parking lot.
- When riding on the street, children should be in a straight line near the curb, and be alert for car doors opening into traffic lanes. Both children and adults should ride with rather than against traffic.
- Children should not ride a bike at dusk or at night as this is when most fatal accidents occur. If a child is still outside when it turns dark, the bicycle light must be turned on and the child should be wearing light or reflective clothing.
- Make certain the bike has safety reflectors. All bikes should have reflectors on the front, rear and wheel spokes.
Emergency medicine specialists from Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital teamed up with Greenwich Hospital to provide the most advanced pediatric emergency services in the area. Should you need us, our pediatric emergency specialists see patients in the emergency department at Greenwich Hospital. For additional information, visit http://ynh.care/fjqN30l4OFp.