GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The sun is shining, the temperature is 65 degrees and it is springtime in West Michigan.  The neighborhoods are full of life and children playing.  The streets are full of kids that seem to be as energetic and re-born as the season of spring itself.  The only thing that could ruin this perfect picture is a serious injury that can be easily prevented. Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital cares about the safety of our children and has helpful tips for riding bicycles. 

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, more children ages 5 to 14 go to the emergency room due to a bicycle-related injury than any other sport.  Just by wearing a helmet, your child can reduce the risk of having a serious brain injury by 88%.  While this is great news, only 45% of children under 14 wear a bike helmet.  You can encourage your child to wear a helmet in a few different ways.  First, let them choose their helmet.  They will be more likely to wear something that they chose for themselves.  The second way is to wear a helmet yourself.  We know children learn so much from their parents, if they see their parents wear a helmet, so will they.

Bicycling is fun, but safety first.

Safe Kids USA and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found that children account for 275,000 nonfatal bicycle injuries annually.  A more shocking statistic is that almost 140 children die from bike accidents.  Almost 700 kids are injured every day from bicycle crashes.

Properly Fitting a Helmet

One of the biggest safety measures our children can take when riding a bicycle is to wear a helmet.  But a helmet will only work if it is put on properly and it is the right size.  Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital has tips for properly fitting a bicycle helmet.

Size: The helmet should fit snugly. If the helmet has a dial, tighten it for a more secure fit.
Position: The helmet should sit level on your head.
Buckles: Center the left buckle under the chin. On most helmets, the straps can be pulled from the back of the helmet to lengthen to shorten the chin strap.
Side Straps: Adjust the slider on both straps to form a “v” shape under and slightly in front of the ears. Lock the slider if possible.
Chin Strap: Buckle the chin strap. Tighten the strap until it is snug so no more than one or two fingers fit under the strap.
Final Fitting: Ask your child to open his or her mouth wide to check if the helmet fits correctly. The helmet should pull down on the head.

Here are some examples of how to not properly ride your bicycle: See if you can spot what is wrong.

Other Bicycle Safety Tips

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital has several tips when it comes to general bicycle safety.

  • Wear bright-colored clothing and add reflectors to your bike so motorists can see you.
  • Make sure that your bicycle is in good functioning condition.  Check the chain on your bicycle to make sure your pant leg or shoelace is not caught. Check tire pressure to prevent low or flat tires that can cause injuries.
  • Never ride without shoes or with sandals.  Wear sneakers or shoes that can grip the pedals well.
  • Don’t wear headphones.  Music can make it difficult to hear cars.
  • Talk to your child about where to ride.  Children 10 and younger should stay in the neighborhood on sidewalks or by the curb if applicable. 

Pedestrian Safety Tips

Helen Devos Children’s Hospital also wants your children to be safe while being a pedestrian. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, about every hour, two children aged 19 and under are injured or killed after being struck by a vehicle while walking. Here are some helpful and life-saving tips on teaching your kids to walk safely.

  • Teach kids at an early age to look left, right and left again before crossing the street.  Then remind them to continue looking around until safely across. 
  • It’s always best to walk on sidewalks or paths and cross at street corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.  If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.
  • Teach kids to make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street.
  • Children under 10 need to cross the street with an adult.  Every child is different, but developmentally, most kids are unable to judge the speed and distance of oncoming cars until age 10.
  • Encourage kids to be especially alert for cars that are turning or backing up.
  • Teach kids not to run or dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
  • If kids are walking when it’s dark out, teach them to be especially alert and make sure they are visible to drivers.  Have them wear light or brightly colored clothing and reflective gear.
  • Put headphones down or turn off the volume before crossing the street.

Car Seat Safety tips

Finally, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital shared some important car seat safety tips with us. Did you know road injuries are the leading cause of preventable deaths and injuries to children in the United States? Here are some tips about car seat safety that can save your child’s life in the event of an accident.

  • Buy the right car seat.  Your baby needs to ride in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible until at least 2 years old.  When your child has outgrown the seat, you are ready for a forward-facing car seat. 
  • Installing your car seat.  You’ll need to decide on using either the seat belt or lower anchors to secure your car seat.  Both are safe but don’t use them both at the same time.  Once your child is facing forward, it is important to use the tether with the seat belt or lower anchors. 
  • Getting the right fit.  A properly fitted harness gives the best possible protection for your child.   
  • When to change your car seat.  Look on the car seat label to make sure your child is still within the weight, height and age limits for that seat. 

Sponsor Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital