Diseases & Conditions
Each year, nearly one million children are treated for bicycle-related injuries in U.S. hospitals, and almost half of all bicyclist deaths occur to children age 16 or younger. One in seven children suffers head injuries in bicycle-related accidents. Each state has its own bike regulations, which usually govern equipment, safety features, and rules of the road.
In order to ride safely, it is important to ride a bike that is the right size. The bike, which should have a bell or horn, should not be too big or complicated, and the child should be able to place the balls of the feet on the ground when sitting on the seat.
Rules of the Road
Bike riders should stop before riding into trafﬁc from a driveway, sidewalk, parking lot, or other street. They should ride on the far right of the road, with trafﬁc, and be visible to cars by wearing brightly colored clothes, especially at night. Bikes should not be ridden in the dark, or during bad weather. Children who do ride at night should be sure to have a headlight, a ﬂashing taillight, and reﬂectors.
It is imperative that every child wear a safety helmet when riding a bike. Seventeen states and more than 55 localities in the United States have mandatory helmet laws, as do parts of Canada. As long as they are ﬁtted securely and buckled during a crash, a helmet can prevent up to 88 percent of cyclists’ brain injuries.
When buying a helmet, consumers should check for safety approval, since helmet standards test for things that cannot be judged in a store, like impact performance and strap strength. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s bike helmet standard is law for every helmet made after March 1999. A bike helmet may carry approvals by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), or the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
The helmet should ﬁt the child’s head so that when the straps are snug, the helmet does not move. The front edge of the helmet should be two ﬁnger widths above the eyebrows. Front and back straps of the helmet should form a V just below the ear, and front straps should be vertical and the rear straps should be ﬂat. The chin strap should be snug when the child opens the mouth (one ﬁnger should ﬁt between the chin and chin strap when the mouth is closed).
For younger children, it is possible to ﬁnd many types of helmets designed for ages one to ﬁve. However, there are no tiny helmets on the market for children under age one because nobody recommends taking a very young infant on a bicycle.
A helmet should be replaced after a bike accident, if it is more than 20 years old, if the outside is just foam or cloth instead of plastic, if it lacks a CPSC, ASTM, or Snell sticker, or if it cannot be made to ﬁt correctly.
Some helmets are “multisport,” which can be used for in-line skating, skateboarding, bicycling, or other wheel sports. Helmets that speciﬁcally are called “bicycle helmets” are designed only for that sport. Helmets come in many sizes and varieties. They also are equipped with sponge pads that adjust to ﬁt the head.