You look outside and see your 11-year-old strap on his helmet before riding his bike around the block. Mission accomplished, right? Actually, no. If your child’s helmet does not fit properly or is not strapped on correctly, it can’t do its job.
According to the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation, 726 cyclists died in traffic in 2014 and 50,000 cyclists were injured.
Children (5-14 years), adolescents and young adults (15-24 years) have the highest rates of nonfatal bicycle-related injuries, accounting for more than one-third of all bicycle-related injuries, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Just how effective are bike helmets in reducing injury in these accidents? According to a study conducted by the Cochrane Injuries Group, helmets provide a 63-88 percent reduction in the risk of head, brain and severe brain injury for all ages of bicyclists.
But if your child’s helmet is strapped on so loosely that it’s hanging off one side of his head, it won’t offer much protection. Helmets should be comfortably touching the head all the way around, level and stable enough to resist hard blows with the strap comfortably snug.
Bike helmet safety tips
There are two ways that helmets achieve this optimal fit—using fit pads or a ring. If your child’s helmet has fit pads, apply them all the way around so that they touch the head evenly, without being too tight. If your child’s helmet has a ring, you simply adjust the size until the helmet fits just right—not too loose and not too tight.
The next step is to adjust the straps. The Y of the side straps should meet just below the ear and the chin strap should be snug against the chin.
Think you understand how to fit a child’s bike helmet correctly? Do this test. Have your child shake his or her head vigorously. Then put your palm under the front edge and push up and back. Can you move the helmet more than an inch from level? If you can, you need to tighten the strap in front of the ears. Now try to grab the back edge and pull up. Can you move the helmet more than an inch? If so, tighten the rear strap.
Here’s a checklist of children’s bike helmet safety tips to make sure you’ve got it right:
- Is the helmet level on the child’s head?
- Does the Y of the side straps meet just below the ear?
- Is the chin strap snug against the chin?
- Have the rider put their palm on the front of the helmet and push up and back. Does it move more than an inch? If it does, more adjustments are needed.
- Have the rider shake their head around. Does it stay put? If not, adjustments are needed.
You should also teach your child to take his helmet off before climbing trees or playground equipment to prevent the straps from getting stuck on something. Be sure to re-check the helmet periodically to make sure the straps are still properly adjusted.
It’s summer and children should be outside riding bikes, scooters and skateboards. Making sure they wear properly fitting helmets should be part of the routine—just like wearing seatbelts or applying sunscreen.
Make sure your child is ready to ride by stopping by one of our offices to get a helmet! Bicycle helmets for children 18 and younger are available at Fisher-Titus Medical Care offices in Norwalk, Milan, Monroeville, New London, Greenwich, North Fairfield, Wakeman and Willard during normal business hours.
Children must be present to ensure a proper fit and a $2 donation per helmet is requested.