Riding a bike is a favorite summer activity for children, but it comes with important responsibilities for staying safe. According to SafeKids.org, 242,931 children ages 19 and under were seen in Emergency Rooms (ERs) for injuries related to riding bikes in 2014. To avoid spending time in the ER this summer, here are several ways to make sure your child stays bike-safe:
Wear a Helmet
Maintaining your child’s bike and the equipment on it, is an essential part of biking safety. Every season, bikes should be inspected.
- Be sure the seat height is appropriate for your child’s height—their feet should be able to touch the ground.
- Check tires. Just like the tires on your vehicle, underinflated tires can change the movement of a bike. Tires usually need more air and higher pressure than a car tire, so check the bike’s tires for the recommended inflation setting, which should be located on the sidewall of the tire.
- Inspect the bike for any damage to the frame; handlebars should be square to the tire to help the bike turn properly.
- Inspect chains to make sure there isn’t any slack.
- Check for damage to brakes, gears and reflectors.
New Hampshire law requires children under 16 to wear a bike helmet. Helmets should fit snuggly. Helmet straps must be no more than one or two fingers above the eyebrow, and no more than one to two fingers should be able to fit between the chin and strap. A helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position, and should not rock forward, backward or side-to-side. The helmet straps must always be buckled, but not too tightly. View the Helmet Fit Test video at Safekids.org.
Clothing and footwear
Your child should wear appropriate clothing and footwear when riding their bike. Clothing should be bright or include yellow or green fluorescent or reflective material, especially if biking near dusk. Avoid letting them wear any loose-fitting clothing that could get caught in the chain. Never let them wear flip-flops or footwear that could easily slip off their feet.
Know the rules of the road
Teach your child the rules of the road. This includes knowing hand signals and other rules such as where and when to ride on the sidewalk, if there is one.If there isn’t a sidewalk, tell your child to ride in the same direction as traffic and as far to the right as possible. Bicyclists should never carry anything in their hands and shouldn’t have any passengers unless riding a tandem bike. Understanding the rules of the road and being able to follow them requires a level of maturity. Children riding a bike under the age of 12 should always be supervised by an adult.
Light up your child’s bike. Reflective gear, such as bike reflectors, are essential to bike safety, even for daytime riding. Add reflective stickers, attach reflectors or have them wear a jacket, safety vest or sash. There are many bike lights and blinkers available, and luckily, for your child, there are some fun options.
For more information about other ways to keep your children safe, visit Safekids.org
Jim Esdon is the program coordinator for the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD) Injury Prevention Program.