Riding a bike is a fun and healthy sport for kids. However, accidents do happen and without taking adequate safety precautions, riding a bike can be dangerous.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more children between the ages of five to 14 go to emergency rooms for injuries associated with bicycles than with any other sport. Following some basic safety tips can significantly reduce the risk of accidents when riding a bike.
Check the bike.
Before your child starts pedaling away, it’s important to make sure the bike is correctly fitted. Inspect the bike to make sure all parts are secure and working properly. It’s particularly important to check the brakes and ensure tires are inflated to the appropriate level.
The bike should be at the correct height and size for your child. Adjust the seat and handlebars so that they are level. As a general rule, there should be about two inches between your child and the top of the handlebars.
Make sure your child can be seen.
It’s difficult to see white or other dull colors on a bicycle. Give your child a high-visibility jacket, or dress your child in bright colors to ensure that they can be seen by drivers and others on the road. Flashing lights and reflective tape that works to reflect light can significantly help. However, even with these items, children should not ride a bike in the dark, fog, or during other low-visibility conditions.
Wear a helmet.
Most bicycle injuries involve the head. Protect your child’s life by requiring a helmet for every ride. A properly fitted bicycle helmet reduces the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by up to 88 percent (according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). In many states it is the law that children must wear bike helmets or their parents may face penalties.
Make sure the helmet fits your child.
Bicycle helmets come in a range of sizes and styles, so measure your child’s head for size, and make sure the helmet fits firmly. If the helmet rocks or moves out of position, it’s too loose; try using sizing pads to ensure a better fit.
Bike helmets should sit level on the head, cover the forehead, and be one or two finger widths above the eyebrow. Adjust straps so that they form a “V” in front of the ears, and the helmet fits tightly under the chin. Take off the helmet to properly adjust straps.
Use the Eyes, Ears and Mouth Test by Safe Kids USA:
- EYES: Position the helmet on your child’s head so that they see the bottom rim of the helmet when they look up.
- EARS: The straps of the helmet should form a "V" under your child’s ears when fastened. The strap should be tight, but comfortable.
- MOUTH: Your child should feel the helmet grip their head when they open their mouth. If not, tighten the straps and make sure the buckle is flat against the chin.
Be aware of the traffic.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 70 percent of car-bike accidents occur in driveways or other intersections. Talk to your children about road safety, and the importance of looking both ways before crossing the street.
Adult supervision of a child cyclist is imperative until the child is old enough to have a good sense of traffic and road safety skills. Children under the age of 10 should only ride their bike on sidewalks and paths.
When should you replace the helmet?
Replace your child’s helmet if it’s been involved in a crash, or has been damaged. Helmets should also be replaced when they’ve been outgrown. Check your child’s helmet for size and adjust straps to ensure a proper fit before every ride.
It’s important to choose a helmet that has been tested and meets the uniform safety standard issued by the CPSC. Look out for the certification seal labeled on the helmet.