Safe Spinning -- Keeping Your Child Safe on Wheels
With warm weather upon us, child safety groups are urging parents to teach their children to take safety measures before taking to the streets on wheels.
Accidents on wheels can cause serious injuries
According to statistics compiled by Safe Kids Worldwide, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 3.5 million children 14 and under suffer serious, even fatal, injuries each year while using a bikes, skateboards, in-line skates and scooters.
Because more than 70 percent of kids ride bicycles, the majority of injuries are the result of bike accidents. In fact:
- About half of those bicycle-related injuries in children 14 and under are brain injuries.
- Motor vehicles are involved in more than 90 percent of bicycle-related fatal crashes.
- The majority of bicycle-related fatal crashes are the result of the bicyclist’s actions, such as riding into the street without stopping, swerving into traffic, running stop signs, or riding against the flow of traffic.
- The majority of child and adolescent bicycle-related fatalities occur on minor roads, typically within 1 mile of the home.
- When children and adolescents ages 14 and under ride their bicycles during non-daylight hours, they are 4 times more likely to be injured.
- Children between the ages of 5 and 14 are 5 times more likely to sustain injuries in a bicycle-related crash than any other age group.
Aside from using caution when rolling along, the most effective way to prevent death and injury while participating in biking and other wheel-related sports is to wear a helmet.
Bicycle helmets can reduce the risk of a head injury by 85 percent and brain injury by 88 percent, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. In addition, experts estimate 75 percent of fatal bike crashes could have been prevented with the use of a helmet. Yet, only about 20 percent of kids wear helmets. Even less - about 11 percent of kids – between the age 11 and 14 use a helmet.
Allowing the child to choose the helmet will increase the likelihood she will use it, and reviewing how to wear it properly will better protect her from injury.
Don't let your children bike until they know the safety rules
Other bike safety rules to discuss with your child include:
- Wear bright-colored clothes; put a reflective tape strip across the back of the shirt or jacket for extra visibility.
- If carrying a backpack, the straps should be tied up to avoid getting tangled in the spokes of the wheel.
- Follow all traffic rules of the road: stop at all stop signs, obey traffic lights, and stop at red lights.
- Always ride on the right-hand side of the street in the same direction as cars; never ride against traffic.
- Watch closely for turning cars or cars leaving driveways.
- Always walk a bike across busy intersections using the crosswalk and following traffic signals.
- When riding with friends, always ride single file on the street.
- Never share the seat of a bike, or ride on the handlebars.
- Do not wear earphones while biking, as hearing what is on the road is important to safety.
- Do not talk on your cell phone or text while biking because it can cause accidents.
- Never hitch a ride on a moving vehicle.
- Do not change lanes without looking behind you; always use correct hand signals when making turns.
- Watch out for potholes, cracks, rocks, wet leaves, sand or dirt, storm grates, railroad tracks or anything that could make you lose control of your bike.
As a parent, make sure your child stays safe by keeping her bike well maintained. Check for proper tire pressure, seat and handlebar height and make sure the chain is oiled and the brakes work. In addition, outfit the bike with reflectors and a battery-operated headlight.
Date: April 2009