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Over six hundred children are injured in bicycle accidents throughout the United States each day, resulting in over 229,000 emergency room visits every year. Roughly 11% of bicycle fatalities involving accidents with vehicles are under the age of 14. Child bike safety begins in the home through education, the use of personal safety equipment and the enforcement of rules that are meant to keep our children safe. The following strategies will help reduce the chance that your children will be involved or injured in an accident.
Helmet Use Saves Lives
One of the most important preventative measures you need to take is to get your child into the habit of wearing a helmet anytime he or she rides a bike. Whether it is a trip down the street or across town, riding a bike does place a child at risk of encountering a number of hazards, which include vehicles. Studies have shown that helmets don’t just greatly reduce the risk of fatal injuries, but that they also reduce the severity of injuries children experience during accidents.
It is important that you choose a proper helmet for your child that complies with the guidelines provided by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. Since bicycle helmets are designed specifically to protect the head and neck while riding a bike, they are the most effective form of protection equipment available.
Purchase an Appropriate Bicycle for Your Child
There is a misconception that children can grow into bikes which has led many parents to purchase bikes that are too large for their children. This can increase the risk of injury and result in poor bicycling form. Make sure that your child is able to sit on the seat of the bike while being able to firmly place the balls of his or her feet on the ground. If he or she is younger, consider buying a bike with a foot brake until he or she develops the coordination to safely handle hand braking.
Many bikes are sold with adjustable seats so that you can add height as your child grows. Once your child has outgrown the tallest safe height, it is best to move onto another bike.
Teach Your Child the Rules of the Road from the Beginning
While you are instructing your child on how to balance and control a bike, it is important that you also educate him or her on the rules of the road so that you can develop safe habits. You should teach concepts such as riding on the right side of the road, how to safely cross the street, how to signal and why he or she needs to obey all traffic control devices.
If you fear that your child will not be able to control his or her bike while using hand signals, spend more time working on developing his or her abilities before allowing your child to ride in or near the street. Anyone who is riding on the street needs to be able to signal and teaching your child to do so early on will instill the habit for later on.
Do Not Allow Your Child to Ride at Night
There are plenty of measures people can take to be seen by motorists at night, such as using reflective vests, bike lights and wheel and tail reflectors. These are meant to protect skilled adult riders, however, and will not account for the lack of skill or decision making ability that your child will have while riding a bike at night. The best way to ensure your child’s safety is to enforce a bike curfew that forbids them from riding once it is dark.
Know Your Local Laws
While the rules of the road for bicyclists are quite similar to those for motorists, many cities have specific laws for the treatment of bicyclists and for how they need to conduct themselves. Before you can teach your children the rules of the road, you need to educate yourself on how your local and state ordinances differ. Some cities will not allow you to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk in certain areas, for example. If your child is under 10 years of age, it is not advisable for him or her to ride in the street, so you will need to find a bike path or sidewalks that he or she can use.
For more resources on child bike safety, you can refer to the following websites, videos and articles.