Bicycle safety requires helmet and rider smarts

©iStockPhoto/MotoEdWhen I was a kid, I rode my bike all the time around the neighborhood and out on to the “big” local streets. I never gave a thought to bicycle helmets. Luckily, that ignorance has gone the way of the dodo bird. And thank goodness. Statistics show that apart from the automobile, bicycles are related to more childhood injuries than any other consumer product.

The increasing use of helmets by children is having a positive impact on the number of injuries sustained while bike riding. Cyclists under age 16 accounted for 13 percent of all cyclists killed and 25 percent of those injured in traffic crashes in 2008. By comparison, cyclists under age 16 accounted for 30 percent of all those killed and 44 percent of those injured 10 years before that, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Safe Kids USA says 75 percent of fatal head injuries among kids on bicycles could be prevented by wearing a helmet and wearing it properly. Helmet use can reduce head injury risk by 85 percent and severe brain injury by 85 percent, Safe Kids says. The same safety considerations apply to skateboarding and in-line skating. Don’t forget the padded safety equipment for those two activities.

But bicycle safety also depends on other factors, like rider “smarts”. Children’s Medical Center and the Consumer Products Safety Commission have this advice:

• Stop before riding into traffic from a driveway, sidewalk, parking lot or other street.

• Look left, right and left again to check for cars.

• If the road is clear, enter.

• Ride on the far right of the road, with traffic.

• Ride so cars can see you, wearing brightly colored clothes, especially at night.

• Obey all traffic signals and stop signs.

• Look back and yield to traffic coming from behind before turning left.

• Ride bicycles in single file.

• Look for uneven pavement or other surface problems.

Some of these same tips apply to when your child is out walking or is going to and from school on the bus. Watch this video for other safety tips in preparation for the upcoming school year.

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