In 1998, 203 children ages 14 and under died in bicycle-related crashes. An estimated 140,000 children are treated each year in emergency rooms for head injuries sustained while bicycling. Bicycle helmets have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of head and brain injury. In fact, it is estimated that as many as seven out of every eight bicycle related fatalities among children could have been prevented with a bicycle helmet.
In 1998, 726 children ages 14 and under died from pedestrian injuries. Of these, 576 died in motor vehicle-related incidents and the remaining 150 died in non-traffic related incidents.
In 1997, 52 children died from pedestrian injuries; an additional 3,200 were treated for pedestrian injuries.
Canadian Statistics: In 1997, 28 children ages 14 and under died as a result of bicycle-related crashes. An additional 1,930 were hospitalized for bicycle-related injuries.
A helmet should be worn every time you ride a bike, scooter, skateboard or in-line skate. It is also important to wear the appropriate helmet when skiing or snowboarding. Use the following guidelines for purchasing and correctly wearing a helmet:
As a parent, you should set a good example by always wearing a helmet yourself. (Remember, actions speak louder than words!)
- The helmet should fit comfortably and not be able to move when you jerk your head from side to side.
- It should sit parallel to the ground, not tilted back, with about an inch (two fingers) between your eyebrows and the lower edge of the helmet.
- Make sure the helmet straps are always buckled. The straps should fit snugly, but not too tightly. The sliding clasp on each side of the head should be situated just below the ears. You should be able to put a finger under the closed strap against your neck.
- Getting the fit "just right" is a matter of trial and error, using the pads provided by the manufacturer and the strap adjustments. Try several helmets in the store; not all helmet styles will fit all heads equally well.
Plan a Biking Excursion
Plan a bike ride with your child from start to finish.
- Talk About Bike Safety Rules
Everyone should always wear a bicycle helmet. Young riders should ride on sidewalks or safe areas only. Teens may ride in the street after they learn the rules of the road. In either case, make sure your children know what areas you permit them to ride their bikes.
For young children:
For teens and adults:
- Never ride at dusk or at night.
- When entering a sidewalk, path or driveway, stop completely. Look left, right and left again.
- Walk, don't ride your bicycle across the street.
- Cross only at the street corner, not mid-block.
- When riding in the street, obey all traffic signals and laws.
- Ride with the traffic flow, not against it.
- Always stop at stop signs and stop lights.
- Use the correct hand signals when turning to let drivers know your intent.
- Practice Makes Perfect
Practice bike safety in your driveway by creating safety scenarios for your children. Set the scene by drawing a street and crosswalks with chalk. Create props for stop signs, motor vehicles and other "obstacles" your children might face while riding their bikes on a real street.
- Have your children practice stopping at stop signs and using hand signals when turning.
- Ask them to cross the "street." When crossing, make sure they walk, not ride, their bikes.
- Pick a Cool Destination and Plan Safe Routes
Make sure to choose a safe area for bike riders, like parks or bike paths.
- HAVE FUN!
Teach Kids to be Wise Walkers
Find ways to practice pedestrian safety with your children during your day-to-day activities - while playing, on walks to school, in parking lots, etc. Ask your children to be on the lookout for unsafe behaviors by other children, or even grown-ups (riding without a helmet, jaywalking, etc.). Remember to make it fun.
Here are some basic street-crossing rules:
Now that you have the basics, practice stopping at the curb or edge of the road with your children. Draw a line on the sidewalk about 4" from the curb with chalk. Explain to children that the line is where they have to put on their "brakes" and STOP. Practice walking up to the line and saying "STOP" together. After practicing a couple of times, remove the chalk line and repeat the activity. While practicing, make sure your children become familiar with the sound of moving cars.
- Children under age 10 should never cross a street without a grown-up.
- When crossing the street, stop at the curb or edge of the road.
- Look left, then right, then left again for moving cars before crossing.
- Keep looking left and right until you are safely across the street.
To make sure your children understand this activity, try throwing a ball into the street when there is no traffic nearby; see if your children stop at the curb. Children should be supervised at all times during this exercise. If they don't stop at the curb, repeat the activity.
If you live in an area with traffic signals, have your children push the button to stop traffic before crossing the street, using the crosswalk. Have your child watch the traffic signal and tell you when the "walk" sign is illuminated. Together, look left, right and left again to make sure traffic has stopped and cross the street together holding hands. Ask your children to read the letters in the "DON'T WALK" and "WALK" signs. Explain that "WALK" means that you can start out into the street. A flashing "DON'T WALK" sign means you can finish crossing the street if you're already in the road - but not to start crossing if you're still at the curb.
When the light turns green in the direction you're crossing, it MAY be time for you to cross the street. However, often there is a left green arrow in the lanes facing you, which means those cars have the right-of-way. If you're not careful, they'll left-turn into you. Usually, the "WALK" light is delayed until that left arrow turns red.
When you're in a crosswalk approaching the other side of the street, watch out for cars turning right on red. Often they're looking to the right, and you'll be coming from their left side - they may not see you.
Data Sources: Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI); National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, National SAFE KIDS Campaign®, Pediatric head injuries and deaths from bicycling in the United States, Pediatrics 1996; Safe Kids Canada; Transport Canada.