Bike riding is a great way to get exercise and fresh air and share time as a family. But before you and the kids rush out and start pedaling, there's an important factor that you need to consider — safety.
Bicycle helmet use should not be optional for anyone in your family, no matter where you are or how short the ride. In many states it's the law.
Here's why: Many bike accidents involve a head injury, so a crash could mean permanent brain damage or death for someone who doesn't wear one while riding. In fact, each year in the United States, about half a million kids are seriously injured in bicycle-related accidents, and most of those injuries could have been avoided if a helmet was worn. To protect against brain injury, make sure your kids wear a correctly fitting helmet on every ride.
Here are some things to keep in mind when buying a helmet:
Pick bright colors or fluorescent colors that are visible to drivers and other cyclists.
Look for a helmet that's well ventilated.
Make sure that the helmet has a CPSC or Snell sticker inside. These indicate that the helmet meets standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or the Snell Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit group that tests helmet safety.
Make sure your child's helmet fits correctly and can be adjusted.
You should be able to get help finding a well-fitting helmet and adjusting it properly at any bicycle store.
When kids wear a helmet, make sure that the straps are fastened. Also make sure they don't wear any other hat underneath it.
Be sure to replace any helmet made before 1999. If your child hits any surface hard while wearing a helmet, replace it — helmets lose their capacity to absorb shock after taking serious hits.
A few bike helmets can be used as protection for other activities, but in general, they're best suited to biking. Most helmets are made for one specific type of activity — for example, special helmets also are made for inline skating, baseball, and snowmobiling.
Kids should not wear any helmet when they're on a playground or climbing a tree — there is a risk of strangulation from the chin strap during these types of activities.