Warm weather is right around the corner, which is all the more reason to get outside and be active. A great way to get some exercise and have fun is going for a bike ride. Did you know, every year, 350,000 children under age 15 go to hospital emergency rooms with bike-related injuries. Of that number, 130,000 children suffer head injuries and an estimated 200 die. By wearing a helmet, a child can reduce their risk of injury by as much as 85 percent. The single most effective safety device available to reduce head injury and death from bicycle crashes is a helmet. Here are a few tips for injury prevention, bicycle and helmet safety.
Make it a rule: Every time you or your child ride a bike, wear a bicycle helmet that meets the safety standards developed by the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Make sure the helmet fits and your child knows how to put it on correctly. A helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position, and should not rock forward, backward or side to side. The helmet straps must always be buckled.
Try the Eyes, Ears and Mouth Test
Eyes check: 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.
Ears check: make sure the straps of the helmet form a “V” under your ears when buckled. The strap should be snug but comfortable.
Mouth check: 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 head.
Take good care of the helmet, don’t throw or sit on the helmet. If the helmet is damaged with a fall be sure to get a new one. If a child is resistant to wear a helmet try letting them pick out their helmet or letting them personalize it with sticker, decals or reflectors.
Ensure proper bike fit by bringing the child along when shopping for a bike. When sitting on the seat, the child’s feet should be able to touch the ground.
Make sure reflectors are secure, brakes work properly, gears shift smoothly and tires are tightly secured and properly inflated.
Wear bright colored clothing so you will be seen. Be careful to make sure nothing will get caught in the chain such as loose pant legs, backpack straps or shoelaces. Wear the right shoes — sneakers — when you ride. Sandals, flip-flops, shoes with heals and cleats are not safe while riding. Never go barefoot. Try to avoid riding at dusk, dawn or in the evenings.
Ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, not against. Stay as far to the right as possible. Respect the traffic signals. Stop and look left, right and left again before entering a street or crossing and intersection. A bike path free of cars is the safest place to ride. Remember to share the path with other riders, walkers and strollers. Children should be restricted to “off-road” (e.g. sidewalks and paths) until the age of 10.
Keep an eye on the road ahead of you to avoid obstacles that could cause a fall: wet leaves, big puddles, changes in the road or sidewalk surface, storm grates, gravel or rocks and curbs.