Keeping Kids Safe On Bikes

August 23, 2017

COMMENTARY by
Akaber Elkhamra, MD, FAAP – Riley Physicians at Meridian Crossing

With cooler temperatures, fall is an ideal time of year for bicycling. And while bike riding is an enjoyable pastime and an excellent form of exercise, it also can be hazardous. That’s why safety precautions are so important—especially in helping children establish good, lifelong bicycling habits. Here are some things parents should keep in mind about bike safety:

Helmets prevent injury. Indiana does not have a bike helmet law for children. However, wearing a bike helmet is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and is essential to help prevent head injury in the event of a fall. Injuries sustained from falling off a bike can be more severe due to the bike’s speed and the fact that most falls occur on concrete.

Children age 2 and older should wear a helmet, manufactured specifically for bicycling, that fits properly. Be sure your child’s ears fit inside the inverted triangle strap on the sides of the helmet and that the strap fastens securely under your child’s chin and not down on the neck. Start early with bike helmets; children are more likely to remain compliant if helmet use is introduced at the very beginning.

Make sure the bike “fits” the child. For optimal safety, it’s important for bicycles to be sized appropriately for the child. When shopping for bikes, be sure to take your child with you. A bike is the right size when your child’s feet touch the ground.

Teach and review “rules of the road.” Ensure your children know which side of the road to ride on, and teach them hand signals when riding on the street. First-time bike riders and young children should always be supervised by adults when bicycling. In addition, it’s not safe for children to ride their bicycles after dark, even with reflective clothing or flashing lights.

Be a good role model. Children look to their parents for behavior cues. If you wear a helmet while riding a bike, your child is more likely to wear his or hers. It’s the same with using hand signals and obeying traffic laws.

If you have questions about bike safety, ask your pediatrician or primary care doctor. (Note: The advice offered here is only for bicycle safety; safety precautions for all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and other motorized vehicles may vary.) More information on bicycle safety, including recommendations, is available at healthychildren.org.

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