Bike Safety – The Rules of the Road
One of the most fun things about summer is that children can get out of the house and play with their friends. For parents and grandparents, this is a fun time where we can be outside with our children to teach them how to do many fun activities that we once enjoyed ourselves as children. While the outdoors may be a great deal of fun, it can also be a very dangerous time for children. The most popular pastime that adults and children love to do together is riding bikes, but did you know that while bike riding is fun, it could also have its own unique risks?
Based on recent Center for Disease control statics, 500,000 individuals are treated in the Emergency Room each year for bicycle relate accidents, with 700 of those people dying due to these injures. To the surprise of most parents and grandparents, 59% of these individuals suffering from bike related injuries are children under the age of 15. Most of the injuries and dangers children face on a daily basis riding their bicycles can be prevented, especially if proper bike safety is taught to children at a young age and reinforced by parents.
Bike Safety: Wear a Helmet
The majority of deaths that occur while riding a bicycle is due to individuals not wearing a helmet or wearing one improperly. Many parents and grandparents overlook putting a helmet on their children since they believe that bike accidents only happen at busy intersections. Children can’t possibly have a life threatening injury at home, right? Wrong! Most bike injuries actually happen very close to home, making it important that your child and anyone riding a bike wear a helmet at all times. This is especially true for children since their body is still developing and a head injury can very well cause permanent brain damage. Some children may not feel comfortable wearing a helmet at first, but it is just as important as wearing a seat belt.
While buying a helmet may seem intimidating at first, purchasing one is very easy, as long as you know how to properly fit a helmet. Here are some easy tips to help you fit a helmet to a child.
1) Before choosing a helmet for your child, measure their head first. Once you know their size, try on various helmets of this size to make sure you have the right size. To properly fit, it should be level on a child’s head, and be adjusted to fit snuggly on a child’s head. It should also sit level on your child’s head and low on the forehead, with about one to two finger widths (your child’s fingers) above the child’s eyebrows.
2) Once you know the helmet fits and is positioned correctly, adjust the slider on the helmet. The straps should form a V shape under and slightly in front of their ears. If there is a lock on the slider, make sure it is locked.
3) Next, center the left buckle under your child’s chin. On most helmets on the market today, the strap can be pulled from the back of the helmet to shorten or lengthen the chinstrap. It may be easier to make these adjustments with the helmet off your child.
4) After you have the buckle set, buckle the chinstrap and tighten it until the strap is snug. You should be able to get no more than one or two fingers under the strap. Have a child test this – it will show it is snug and help teach your child how it should feel.
5) Double check that the helmet fits properly for a final fit. Can your child open their mouth wide and yawn? The helmet should also pull down on the child’s head if the chinstrap is set properly. The helmet should also not rock back and forth more than two fingers above the eyebrows, or go over a child’s eyes. You can always readjust the straps and the helmet should be checked every so often to make sure your child’s helmet still fits properly. Remember, children are always growing so you may go through multiple helmets before your child outgrows their bike.
As a parent, it also great to be a good example for your kids. If they always see you wearing a helmet, they will want to wear one too. Also, get a helmet that you know your children will love. Multiple stores, especially Amazon.com, sell a variety of character helmets and colored helmets that kids of all ages are sure to love.
Bike Safety: Getting a Proper Bike
While bikes may be very fun gifts for kids, it is always important that you buy a bike that fits your child. Children that do not properly fit to their bike are more likely to have an accident by being unable to control their bike. These risks can include flipping the bike, or having no clue how to handle it if they get into an emergency situation, such as hitting a pothole or puddle. When purchasing a bike, make sure that when a child is standing over a bike, there are one to two inches between the rider and the tube (bar) on a road bike. If you are purchasing a mountain bike, there should be 3 to 4 inches. As well, if you are purchasing a bike online, measure your child before purchasing the bike. This will avoid any problems and will still allow you to purchase a surprise gift for child or grandchild. Amazon is very good about putting the exact measurements of bikes on their pages.
Next, make sure that the seat on the bike is level. An unlevel seat means that the seat was assembled improperly. As well, make sure the height on the seat can be adjusted. At the right height, your child’s legs should be a slight bend at the knees when standing over the bike. As well, the handlebars should also be at the same height as the seat. Both the seat and handlebars can be easily adjust on most quality bikes. Each time your child gets on the bike, also make sure that the brakes are properly working and the tires are properly inflated. While children may whine about having to do this, it will become second nature and can easily save your child’s life!
Bike Safety: Rules of the Road
Even though many parents and grandparents don’t think about it, it is also very important that children know the rules of the road. While we may think of a bicycle as a fun toy, it is actually considered a vehicle in most countries. For this reason, children should know how to interact with traffic and how to look out for cars. These basic traffic laws and hand signals are very easy to teach, and most cities have weekly or monthly programs for kids that are sponsored by the city to teach children bike safety on the road and how to interact with traffic. To see when one of these programs are offered, call your local police department. Programs for teaching children how to be safe on the road and different traffic laws are offered throughout the summer, and even if they aren’t free, they are usually very low cost and made fun for kids.
It is also important that parents constantly monitor children under the age of 10. While you may think they are responsible, studies have shown that they are not mentally ready to make quick decisions on the road and are better on the sidewalk. They should also always be attended by adults or have an adult close by in case there is an accident. Children over 10, however, should stay on the road since it’s the safest place for bicycles. As well, teach children that they should be alert at all times, look before turning, and always be on the lookout for even parked cars. Remember, bicycles have to share the road with cars, and that means that bicycles and cars alike have to look out for one another.
Bike Safety: Safety Tips for Kids & Parents
Even though bike safety may seem intimidating, it is important for making sure that your child is safe every time they go out on their bike. Once your child is adjusted, it will seem like second nature! Here are some more important tips for keeping your child safe on the road:
- • Always keep both hands on the bike’s handlebars, unless you are signaling.
- • Keep all items in a backpack or bike career to avoid distractions.
- • Always wear fluorescent or bright colors when riding.
- • Always wear something reflecting light, such as reflective tape or markings.
- • Buying flashing lights for your child’s bike, especially if they are riding at dusk or at night.
- • Avoid riding at night.
With proper safety and understanding how to properly ride a bike, riding a bicycle can be fun and great exercise for children of all ages. Don’t forget that riding is even more fun for children when parents and grandparents ride together!