As the weather warms up, getting little ones outside to breathe in fresh air and be active becomes easier. No matter a child’s age, riding bikes and scooters or roller-skating is a fundamental part of their childhood. It can entertain for hours and is a great way to get them off the couch and out the front door to do something active. While bikes and scooters may seem harmless aside from some scraped knees and elbows, there are a shocking number of tragic accidents each year involving children on bikes. With a little bit of awareness and education about how to be on the road, you can ensure your kids stay safe this summer.
Wear a Helmet:
Perhaps the greatest misconception when it comes to bike riding is that helmets are not important. This could not be further from the truth! Safe Kids Worldwide uses the saying, “Use your head, wear a helmet.” A bike helmet is the most effective means of avoiding head injury or death from a bicycle crash. However, not just any helmet will do the trick. Make sure that your child has a helmet that fits their little head properly. A good helmet will sit on top of the head in a level position and will not rock back and forth when nudged. Here are a few tips on checking to make sure it fits:
1. Position the helmet so that when your child looks up they can see the edge of it. This means that it should be one to two finger widths above their eyebrows.
2. Make sure the straps of the helmet form a snug but comfortable “V” under your child’s ears.
3. Have your child open their mouth as wide as they can. They should feel the strap of the helmet snugly against their chin, so that the buckle is pressed flat against them. If it’s not, tighten the strap.
If your child has outgrown their helmet, or it’s going to be there first one, take them with you to purchase one. Children are much more likely to wear a helmet that they themselves picked out. A recent study showed that only 45% of children under the age of 14 wear a bike helmet regularly in spite of the fact that bike helmets reduce the chance of head injury by 88% and the fact that bike riding brings more children ages 5 to 14 to the emergency room than any other sport. Make sure your child develops the habit of wearing a helmet while they’re still young. Also, be aware that different forms of wheel-based activities can call for different helmets. While a bike helmet is perfectly safe for scootering and roller-skating as well, skate boarding and long boarding require a different kind of helmet. Ask someone at your local sports store if you have questions concerning what type of helmet is appropriate.
Also make sure that…
1. …the bike is the correct size for your child. Bring your son or daughter when you go to purchase a bike. A properly fitting bicycle should allow for your child’s feet to sit flat on the ground when they’re sitting on the seat.
2. …you do a regular check of the bike’s mechanics. Make sure that reflectors are properly in place, brakes are working well, tires are inflated, and the gears are shifting smoothly. This will always set your little one up for a successful ride!
3. …your child is dressed appropriately. While little ones (especially girls) love to play dress-up, dresses that are too long or loose can be a real hazard when riding. Make sure that your child wears well-fitting garments that can’t get caught in the chain or a spoke thereby causing an unneeded accident.
Teach through Example:
-While it may seem unimportant to wear a bike helmet yourself, going for family rides together and modeling proper bike safety will have a greater impact on your child than you might expect. Make sure that if you’re riding a bike in front of your kids that you’re wearing a helmet as well.
– Show your little ones how to make eye contact with drivers when crossing the street. It’s important for them to know that they must always be watching out to make sure other vehicles on the road see them and are going to allow them to pass.
-Teach them about stop signs and stop lights and what the different colors mean. The more they understand of how car traffic works, the safer they’ll be when maneuvering around it. Also be sure that they always ride along the right hand side of the road, so that they’re flowing with traffic and that they keep as far to the right and away from cars as possible.
-While drivers in your own neighborhood may be more conscientious of little ones sharing their road, if you go on a longer bike ride and leave the neighborhood, that may not be the case. Teach them to look both ways before crossing any street and to always yield to traffic.
Following these few simple rules can make a huge difference when it comes to your child’s safety. Take the time to teach them the whys behind each rule, set a good example, and they’re sure to become little experts on how to maneuver through traffic safely, allowing you some peace of mind this summer.