Bike safety deserves attention because more children ages 5 to 14 are seen in emergency departments for injuries related to biking than any other sport. Bike to School Day is the perfect opportunity for students to have fun while learning how to remain injury-free as they bike to and from school.
Each year, an average of 127 children ages 14 and under die from bicycle-related injuries and more than 254,000 nonfatal bicycle injuries occur. Helmets can reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by 88 percent; however, many children do not wear them.
A bike helmet is essential. Bike to School Day is a great opportunity for us to encourage children to wear a helmet. Helmets could prevent an estimated 75 percent of fatal head injuries and up to 45,000 head injuries to children who ride bikes each year. Helmets are a necessity, not an accessory.
Sometimes children mistakenly believe that they don’t need to wear helmets when they’re riding near home. Yet, about half of vehicle-related bike deaths to children occur on minor roads and residential streets. A helmet is the single most effective safety device available to reduce head injury and death from bicycle crashes.
Safe Kids Grand Forks also reminds parents and caregivers to:
- Make sure the helmet fits and your kids know how to use it correctly, every time. A helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position, and should not rock forward and backward or side to side. The helmet straps must always be buckled. Safe Kids recommends kids take the Helmet Fit Test.
- EYES: Position the helmet on your head. Look up and you should see the bottom rim of the helmet. The rim should be two finger-widths above the eyebrows.
- EARS: Make sure the straps of the helmet form a “Y” under your ears when buckled. The strap should be snug but comfortable.
- MOUTH: 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 skin.
- Make sure the bike is the right size for the child. For a bike, a child should be able to sit on the seat and touch both feet to the ground. As the child develops more confidence, the seat can be raised so that he or she can just touch the toes of both feet and only one foot to the ground.
- Make sure the bike is in good repair. It’s important to make sure reflectors are secure, brakes work properly, gears shift smoothly, and tires are tightly secured and properly inflated.
- Remember, bike helmets should only be worn for biking and for other sports like skateboarding and rollerblading. Kids should not wear bike helmets on the playground (where the straps can get caught on equipment and cause injury) or for activities that require specialized helmets (such as skiing or football).
- Model and teach proper bicyclist behavior. Ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, not against it. Stay as far to the right as possible. Use appropriate hand signals and respect traffic signals, stopping at all stop signs and stop lights. Children should only ride or skate in good weather and during the day. They should stay on sidewalk paths – not roads – until age 10.
- When in doubt, get help. The sales staff at any bicycle shop or outdoor recreation store should be able to provide expert advice on fitting and adjusting bikes and helmets.
For more information on bike safety, contact Safe Kids Grand Forks at firstname.lastname@example.org. Altru Health System is proud to serve as the lead agency for Safe Kids Grand Forks.