Every day, more than 600 children are injured due to bicycle-related crashes. Younger children are at higher risk, but even experienced teenagers, like my son, can be in danger. This summer it will be 10 years since we lost our son due to a bicycle/vehicle crash. Don’t think it can’t happen to your family.
With spring just around the corner, now is the time to start tuning up your bikes, checking helmet sizes and reviewing the rules of the road. Bike safety is a passion for my family and we have helped organize and participated in dozens of bike safety events. Here’s what I share with parents and kids:
- Always wear a helmet. No exceptions. This goes for adults and kids. Does the calendar say that little Hannah will fall off her bike at 3:36 p.m. next Tuesday? That would be a pretty important thing to know so you could be prepared and make sure she wears her helmet, right? If only life were that simple! We never know when an accident will happen, and that’s why everyone always must wear a helmet. Yes, parents, this means you, too. You need to set the example for safe behavior. It is estimated that 75 percent of bicycle-related deaths and 85 percent of head injuries could be prevented with a bicycle helmet. Make it a household rule: No helmet, no bike. It’s that simple.
- Make sure helmets fit properly. Children who wear their helmets tipped back have a 52 percent greater risk of head injury. The helmet should sit 1 to 2 fingers above the eyebrow. The helmet strap should form a “V” under the ears when buckled. Finally, the helmet should hug your head when you open your mouth. If the helmet is too small, it’s time to buy a new one. Or, check online for organizations that provide reduced-cost or free helmets for kids. Never use a second-hand helmet. Even one fall can crack a helmet and make it unsafe to use again.
- Always have identification within a helmet. If you or your child could not speak, how would emergency responders know who you are? What if your child has a serious illness like diabetes or an allergy to bee stings and was found unconscious on the side of the road? Many bike shops have simple ID kits that fit inside helmets. Even duct tape with a name and phone number on it is better than nothing.
- Follow the rules of the road. I always am amazed by how many children I see run stop signs or ride against traffic. Bicycles are vehicles, not toys. Bike riders must follow the same traffic rules as cars. It’s the law. Take time to review all rules of the road with your child, including hand signals, traffic rules and not riding a bike after dark.
- Drivers: Slow down when you approach a bicycle. Drivers have a responsibility to look out for bicyclist as we are in the vehicle that can cause the most bodily harm. Legally, cars must pass bikes like any other vehicle, allowing at least 3 feet of space. The Wisconsin Bike Federation has a great recap of all bicycle laws.
Safe Kids Wisconsin has a lot more information about bicycle safety. I encourage you to review the information with your children.
Why am I so passionate about bicycle and helmet safety? It’s because I never want any other child to be a bicycle-related crash statistic. I never want any other family to go through what my family has endured. Have fun biking this summer, but be safe.
- Rosann Fochs
Rosann Fochs works as the community relations and volunteer coordinator at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Neenah, Wis. Children’s Hospital in Neenah has a 20-bed pediatric unit, 22-bed neonatal intensive care unit and an outpatient clinic offering specialties from allergy to urology. Learn more at chw.org/foxvalley.