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Biking is a great family activity. It is inexpensive, and great exercise. While cycling is a fun family pastime, it can also be dangerous. The CDC reports that approximately 26,000 head injuries are treated in emergency rooms each year in children and adolescents as a result of bicycle accidents. The severity of these injuries can be reduced or injury eliminated altogether with a properly fitted helmet.
More Than an Accessory
SafeKids.org is an organization dedicated to various aspects of child safety. They are a great resource for proper car seat installation, and have safety tips on almost any subject, including bike safety. This video from Safe Kids demonstrates what proper fit of a bike helmet looks like.
A helmet is more than just an accessory. Make it a policy for your family. Enforcing consistent helmet use is of very little inconvenience when compared with lifelong brain injury.
It’s easy to force our children to wear bike helmets, with their growing brains, and all. Some states even have bike helmet laws for children and adolescents. As in all aspects of safety, bike helmets are a situation where we should lead by example. Here are a few tips for choosing and fitting helmets for adults and children alike.
Above all, a helmet needs to fit properly. Every head is different and helmet manufacturers have come up with innovative ways to try to get their helmets to fit a wide range of people. There are three things to remember when adjusting your helmet for a proper fit:
- Eyes. With your helmet on, you should be able to look up and see it in the front. It’s not a hipster beanie to be worn on the back of your head. When you’re looking straight ahead the bottom of the helmet should be parallel with the ground.
- Ears. Starting from your chin, each strap of your helmet goes up toward your ear and creates a “Y”. The Y should be below your ear, not over it or on it. One side of the Y should go in front of your ear, the other behind.
- Mouth. Your helmet should be snug under your chin, allowing free movement of your mouth. You should, however, feel just a bit of tension as you move your jaw. There should be no dangling strap, and the helmet should not be able to be removed without unbuckling the strap.
It should also be noted that if your helmet is in an accident and gets cracked, you should pick up a new one. Careful storage during the off-season will help prolong the life of your bike helmet.
Choose a style that fits your head well. Helmets come in varying sizes and styles. Some are adjusted by a ring suspended inside the helmet, while others have different sized pads you can switch out to get proper fit. Make sure your helmet is comfortable when it’s adjusted properly. Be willing to try different helmets before committing.
Let’s be honest. If you or your children hate the way your helmet looks, you won’t wear it. So choose a style that at least moderately reflects your tastes.
Lastly, be consistent. If you are used to wearing your helmet you won’t forget it. If your kids are used to wearing their helmets, they won’t fight it. It may be difficult at first if you aren’t used to wearing a helmet, but in the long run consistency will make it much easier.
There is more to bike safety than wearing a helmet, but helmets are one easy way to increase your safety. If nothing else, wearing your helmet will be a reminder to take care while biking, and open the lines of conversation with your kids about other kinds bicycle safety.