More than 300,000 children visit the Emergency Room each year due to bicycle-related injuries. In fact, children between the ages of 5 and 14, and adolescents ages 15 to 19, account for more than a third of all bike-related injuries in American emergency departments.
Worldwide, 2% to 8% of child road traffic-related deaths are related to biking accidents.
And here’s where the rubber really meets the road: Although it is the law in many states, studies have shown that less than half of children 14 years of age and younger wear helmets when they bike.
This summer, children will be eager to set out on their bikes in search of action and adventure. Parents and guardians can do their part to make sure those quests don’t wind up at the hospital by enforcing these bicycle safety rules.
HELMETS ARE AN ABSOLUTE MUST
In Maryland, bicycle helmets are required by law for all children under the age of 16 when riding on public property. All helmets manufactured since 1999 must fit the standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). If the helmet you intend to purchase does not clearly carry this distinction, DO NOT BUY.
- Helmets should be worn every time a child rides a bicycle – whether the ride is to the end of the street or the outskirts of town.
- Helmets should fit properly– not too small, not too large. Ask a store associate for help if necessary.
- Helmets should cover the entire forehead, and not be tipped backward.
- Straps should be snug and secure.
- Take care of your helmet. If an accident occurs resulting in impact to the helmet, no matter how minor – replace it.
BEFORE YOU RIDE
Be sure to review these bicycle safety rules with your children before allowing them to disengage the kickstand.
- Riding a bike that is too big or too small can be hazardous. Choose a bike that is the proper size for your child. Allow 1-3 inches of space between rider and the top bar of bicycle.
- Handlebars, seat, and wheels should fit tightly.
- Regularly check brakes and tires for faults, and make sure to oil the bicycle chain.
- Use reflectors on bicycle and wear bright clothing so that drivers can see you.
- Be sure that no clothing or paraphernalia can get caught in spokes of tires.
- Never ride barefoot.
- Be aware and cautious of obstacles such as wet leaves, storm grates, puddles, surface changes (cracks, holes, etc.), gravel, and more.
AS YOUR CHILD RIDES
- Stay off of regularly trafficked roads whenever possible – use sidewalks or bike paths instead.
- If you must ride on trafficked streets, ride in the same direction as traffic, on the far right of the street. NEVER ride facing traffic, as this disorients drivers and can lead to accidents.
- NEVER RIDE AT NIGHT.
Taking bicycle safety seriously can help to reduce the risk of severe injury. Accidents happen, however, and always will. Even the most cautious parents and children can wind up in with abrasions or minor broken bones as a result of a nasty spill. At KinderMender, your child’s well-being is our top priority. When summer fun takes a turn into the summertime blues, our four Maryland clinics are open to serve you, and get your child back up and pedaling as soon as possible.