Learning how to ride a bike is a major milestone for many children. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half a million people are treated each year for bicycle accidents, and 59 percent of those are children under the age of 15. About 8,000 children are injured in bicycle accidents every year, with dozens of fatalities. So before you let your little one take off, make sure you know these important safety tips.
1. Make sure the bicycle is the correct size — Don’t buy a larger bike anticipating that your child will grow into it. If your child cannot sit comfortably on the seat with his or her feet on the ground, it will be difficult to balance and poses a safety hazard.
2. Make sure training wheels are in good condition and mounted correctly — If the training wheels aren’t on right, they can’t help your child stay balanced, which can result in falls and possible injuries. Before each ride, make sure the training wheels are tight and secure.
3. Have your child wear bright colors — This makes it easier for other people to see your bike rider and helps prevent accidents.
4. Always insist on a helmet — The most dire and common injuries from bicycle accidents are head injuries. A helmet can reduce the chance of severe brain injury by 88 percent. Make sure the helmet fits snugly. If your child does have a fall, replace the helmet.
5. Keep the bike maintained — Check to be sure the handlebars and seat are tight and the chain is oiled. Also, keep the tires properly inflated, and be sure the brakes work properly.
6. Teach your child hand signals — Teach common bike signals along with the rules of the road, such as following traffic signs. A child who gets into the habit early will continue to use hand signals and follow traffic laws when older.
7. Ride in safe areas — A child cannot judge the speed and distance of cars until he or she is around 10 years old. Until that time, restrict riding to sidewalks, bike paths, and parks. No matter where your child rides, watching for cars is essential.
8. Always supervise — Until your child is older, you will want to supervise time on the bicycle. Use this time to teach bicycle safety rules, such as staying out of the road and watching for traffic. Turn this time into a fun family activity by riding your bike along with your child.
- About 8,000 children were injured in bicycle accidents in 2011.
- A helmet reduces the chance of a traumatic brain injury by 88 percent.
- Teach hand signal and traffic laws for lifelong good habits.