Each year, about 300,000 children wind up in the emergency room from bike injuries. More than 10,000 of those kids require at least a few days recovering at the hospital, and a few of these injuries —typically head injuries—are so bad they can result in death.
Fortunately, countless bicycle injuries can be prevented by following a few precautions. Let's find out how to keep your kids safe every time they ride, whether for a few minutes or a long afternoon.
Helmets On, Every Time
Your child's helmet is the first and best line of defense against head injuries in the event of a crash. The only helmets you should trust to defend your kids are those with a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sticker.
Your child should wear a helmet every single time they ride to enforce good habits, regardless of how long or short the ride is.
A helmet should fit snugly on your child's head without being too loose or too tight, and cover their forehead with the straps fastened.
Before you kids begin to ride, make sure their handlebars, seat, and wheels fit tightly with the frame of the bike. You should make a habit of regularly checking and oiling their chain, and making sure the brakes don't stick. And of course, check their tire pressure before every ride!
Some parents think it's overkill to wear bright clothes and use reflectors on their children's bikes, but it's really not. In low-light riding conditions, reflectors can save lives.
Still, riding at night is unnecessarily dangerous—with or without reflectors.
Before your kids head out, make sure they're not wearing anything that might interfere with operating their bike. That means no baggy pants, stray backpack straps, flip-flops, etc.
Also warn them about using headphones while they ride, since headphones can make it impossible for cyclists to hear car horns and other dangers.
Where to Ride
Designated bike paths are the safest place for kids to ride, with sidewalks taking second place. Make sure your kids are always on the lookout for reversing cars, even when riding in your neighborhood.
If your kids are old enough to ride in the street, make sure to set boundaries with how far they can ride or how long they can stay out.
It's easy to be overprotective of our kids when they ride. But just follow basic precautions and teach your kids how to stay safe, and they'll be just fine. Everyone has to start somewhere.