No matter how hard-headed your children sometimes act, they need to wear bicycle helmets when riding. About 33 million children ride bicycles, and each year 450,000 kids have accidents serious enough to send them to the emergency room. About 150,000 accidents involve head injuries.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that bike helmets could reduce the risk of head injury by 80 percent. If all children wore helmets, the CDC says 39,000 to 45,000 head injuries would be prevented each year. What is more, a child cyclist who is wearing a helmet has a vastly reduced risk of dying if he or she is involved in a crash.
Protect Those Little Noggins
There is no doubt about it. Bicycle helmets prevent death and head injury … if they are used. The CDC says only 15 percent of children wear helmets all or most of the time they are biking. We adults aren’t providing the greatest role model, either. Only 19 percent of us use bicycle helmets all or most of the time.
The easiest way to get your child in the habit is to start early. Put a helmet on a child or infant riding behind you on your bike. As soon as your child starts riding a tricycle or bike alone, make a helmet part of the routine. An early start ensures that they will continue using helmets throughout their life.
With older children who have gotten used to bare-headed cycling, it may take a little more effort. Many kids won’t wear helmets if their friends don’t. So it may help to get together with other parents or organize a helmet campaign through the PTA. Bottom line? Make wearing a helmet a rule for bike-riding. No helmet, no riding. Explain that the helmet may save their lives or prevent brain damage.
What to Look for
For bicycling, your child should wear a bicycle helmet — not a helmet designed for some other activity. When buying the helmet, make sure it has a stamp or tag saying it meets the standards of ANSI (the American National Standards Institute), Snell (the Snell Memorial Foundation), or the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials). It is a good idea to replace the helmet if it goes through a crash.
Children often wear their helmets improperly. In order to offer the maximum protection, a helmet should fit right and be positioned correctly on the head. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute offers detailed instructions on their Web site.