Did you know that more children are seen in emergency departments for injuries related to biking than any other sport? On average, over 500 kids a day are injured due to cycling related crashes! Bike safety is something the whole family needs to learn about to avoid potentially serious injuries.
This first and cardinal rule of bike safety is obvious. Every time you and your child ride a bike, wear a helmet. It’s that simple. Younger kids are more apt to make this a habit, while older kids tend to steer away from helmets because of the “cool factor.” But don’t let this rule slide … it is clearly shown to save lives.
Helmet fit is crucial. A helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position, and shouldn’t be loose enough to rock side to side or forward and backward. It must always be buckled, but not to the point where your child can’t breath or feels like her or she is going to choke. Don’t forget – helmets aren’t just for biking. It is just as effective for preventing injuries in activities like riding a scooter, roller blading, skateboarding, and riding an ATV.
I like the “eyes, ears, and mouth test.” This is a good test for helmet fit:
Eyes: Look up and you should see the bottom rim of the helmet. It should be 1-2 finger widths above the eyebrows.
Ears: The straps of the helmet should form a “V” under your ears when buckled. Remember, it should be snug and comfortable.
Mouth: When you open your mouth as wee as you can, the helmet should hug your head. If not, tighten the straps.
Click here for a video of a demonstration showing proper helmet fit.
Just like for adults, making sure the bike actually fits the child helps avoid injury. When sitting on the seat, the child’s feet should be able to touch the ground. Of course, it’s helpful if the gears, brakes, and bike components work properly.
Adult supervision and modeling bike safety will help your child learn to ride safely from an early age. Riding as a family can be very fun and enjoyable – obey the rules of the road (ride on the right side of the road, use hand signals when applicable, and stop before entering an intersection, etc), and your child will understand how to ride a bike safely!
Rachel Brewer, MD