School is out for the summer in many places, and kids are going to be out riding their bikes.
A large percentage of emergency room visits come from bicycle accidents, especially those involving children – here are some tips:
Many people just don’t think a helmet is necessary, or perhaps they think they’re too uncomfortable.
However, even if a bike isn’t moving fast and you fall with your head hitting the ground, you could have a serious concussion or a worse injury.
Studies have shown that using a bicycle helmet can reduce head injuries by up to 95 percent and that approximately 75% of bicycle related accidents are due to head injuries.
These same statistics apply to everyone, so adults should also wear helmets. As a parent, this sets a good example for your kids.
You shouldn’t just buy a helmet for your child and bring it home. It’s better to bring your child to the store to be fitted for the helmet properly. Preferably this should be a bicycle store with a knowledgeable salesperson who can pick the right size and type of helmet.
The helmet shouldn’t be too big for your child’s head, and should fit snugly while still being comfortable and not too tight.
There are 3 organizations which set safety standards for bicycle helmets:
ANSI – American National Standards Institute, ASTM – American Society for Testing Materials, and the ANSI – Snell Memorial Foundation.
Helmets meeting safety requirements for any of these organizations will have a label for that organization inside the helmet.
All three of these organizations are endorsed by the National Traffic Safety Administration.
Choosing a Bicycle
A common mistake is choosing a bike that is too big for your child, which really limits their control when riding and being able to balance the bike.
Although it’s always nice to surprise a child with a new bicycle under the Christmas tree or for a birthday present, the best and safest thing to do is to find a bike shop with an experienced employee that knows how to pick the correct bicycle size and properly adjust the seat and handlebars to your child.
You should also choose a bike with reflectors mounted on the front and rear, and on wheels and pedals.
A bright headlight should be on the front and a bright tail-light on the rear.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that bicycle riders should wear fluorescent or bright colors when riding, and these clothing items are available as vests, jackets, wristbands, etc.
Clothing shouldn’t be too loose or hang down, to avoid getting caught in the moving bicycle parts while riding.
Traffic Laws and Road Hazards
In most areas a bicycle on the street is considered a vehicle and should follow the same laws as motor vehicles.
I often see children on bicycles riding directly into moving traffic without looking, and apparently with no concern whatsoever about being injured.
Even if a driver is considered “at fault” or can possibly be “sued”, that will be little consolation, because if your child is seriously injured in an accident, your life will never be the same.
It’s really up to parents to teach their children to obey traffic laws and be cautious, and better yet to go with them and especially not let younger children ride unsupervised.
In addition to the cars and other vehicles, their are many other obstacles in the road, such as drainage/sewer covers, potholes, railroad tracks, slick pavement, debris in the road, etc.
My personal feeling is that most city streets and even many residential areas are too dangerous for bicycles. There are just too many careless drivers, impaired drivers, people talking on cell phones and doing other things while driving.
If possible, look for designated areas for bicycles, such as bike trails.
Securing Your Bicycle
Many people don’t think much about locking their bikes. How many times have you seen bikes lying on someone’s front yard, even out close to the street.
I once knew a woman who bought brand new bikes for all three of her children for Christmas.
I think she had reminded them to bring them inside when they got home, but they got lazy.
In a short time – within only weeks of Christmas, the bikes were all stolen overnight. What thief wouldn’t want a brand new bicycle?
When not in use bikes should be locked up at home, as well as school and other public places.
It’s also a good idea to register your bicycles with the police by engraving them with a special number and/or your name, which is then recorded at the police department, along with photos of the bicycles.
This will certainly keep you one step ahead in recovering them if they’re stolen.