By: Dr. Anthony Ng
Well spring is upon us and what is the best way to enjoy spring, being outdoors. Many are enjoying the outdoors by bicycling, especially children. As much as it is great fun and great way to have children participate in exercise, this is also an important time for parents to ensure that their children learn bike safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 618 lives were lost from bicycle accidents in 2010 and this rate has been rising over the past several years. In 2008, 13 percent of those killed were under 16 years old. Each year, close to 500,000 people visit emergency room as a result of bike related injuries. More children between 5 and 14 years old visit the emergency room for bike related injuries than any other sports, with many of these visits due to head injuries.
The most important safety tip that parent can teach their children is to wear helmets. Helmets should be worn even by children who may only be biking a very short distance or in the driveway, as this will get children to start practicing bike safety skills. Bicycle helmets should be properly fitted to the child’s head yet comfortable enough for the child to wear. The size of the helmet should be considered, as well as position. A bright color helmet may be more visible to others than a darker color helmet. Parent should buy a new helmet that has been tested and meets the uniform safety standard issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Helmet should be replaced if the child has outgrown it, if the helmet has been involved in a crash or has been damaged. Parents when riding with children should also wear helmets as that will be good role modeling for their children. Remember, it is the law in Maine that any one under 16 years old riding a bicycle must have a helmet.
In addition to bicycle helmets, parents should make sure the bicycle is adjusted to fit the child, not too big and not too small for the rider. The equipment should be checked including tires being properly inflated and not worn. The bicycle should also be visible to other riders. This includes the use of reflectors and lights. Children should also be wearing bright color clothing, including fluorescent neon to enhance visibility. Children should be taught to control their bikes, which include having their hands on the handle bars. When riding, children should be mindful of hazards such as potholes, rocks, broken glass, gravel, puddles, tree branches and sticks, leaves, and dogs and other animals. All these hazards can cause a crash. Teach children that when riding with friends, one person can take the lead, yell out and point to the hazard to alert the riders behind him. Avoid riding at night as it is more difficult to see the hazards or for cars to see the rider. Parents should not let children ride in active roadways and young children should be supervised. Placing safety signs by your home to alert motorists that young children may be riding near there may be helpful. For older children, they should still try to avoid very active roadways and to ride on the right of the roadway and always going with the flow of traffic, not against it. Children should watch out for parked cars and should be taught to obey traffic laws, including traffic lights and stop signs. Parents should teach children to yield to traffic and pedestrians. Teach children to use hand signals when turning. Reckless behaviors such as racing in roadways or when there are other pedestrians and riders present should be discouraged. Avoid distractions such as using headphone for music or talking or texting on cell phones as these distractions can increase risks of accidents.
Bicycling is a great way to enjoy the outdoors in the spring. It is even better when families can bike with safety in mind. Remember, teaching kids good and safe bike riding habits will help ensure that they will continue to do so as adults.
Bicycle Crash Facts. Accessed 4/20/2012. http://www.bicyclinginfo.org/facts/crash-facts.cfm
Bicycle Safety. Accessed 4/20/2012. http://www.maine.gov/dps/bhs/bicycle-safety.html
Kids and Bicycle Safety. Accessed 4/20/2012 http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/bike/kidsandbikesafetyweb/index.htm
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By: Dr. Anthony Ng
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