Nothing says summer for kids like whizzing down the road on a bike. Whether it’s riding to the local pool to meet a friend or to the nearby park, biking provides a taste of independence that all kids crave—and need. The challenge is knowing when your child is ready to venture off on her own. Making sure she understands the rules of the road and how to be safe is key. Here are some tips on how to keep your kids safe as they ride off on their next adventure.
Strap on a Helmet
Each year in the United States, hundreds of people die from bike riding accidents and several thousand more are injured. There’s one simple solution to lowering these numbers: strap on a helmet. Helmets often make the difference between death and minimal injury.
Wearing a helmet is vital, even when your child is merely going around the block. Maybe it’s human nature to want to believe that our little corner of the world is safe, but statistics show otherwise: most bike accidents involving kids occur on quiet neighborhood streets.
According to a study by the New England Medical Center, helmets prevent 88% of brain injuries, but less than one-fifth of kids wear them. Make it a rule that your child must wear a helmet—no exceptions.
Kids will buck wearing a helmet, especially if they notice their friends stopped wearing one. Don’t bend, even if he insists. Let him pick out, or decorate, his helmet, and remember to upgrade as the years go by. What’s cool in kindergarten is no longer desirable in second grade. Another way to promote helmet use is putting one on yourself; it’s tempting to not wear one, but your child won’t take you seriously for long if you don’t.
Teach Kids the Rules of the Road
It is important that kids follow the rules of the road. That means riding on the right, using hand signals and obeying signs. The second most common way kids get hit by cars is wrong-way riding. Teach your kids defensive riding skills: have them assume a driver does not see them, rather than the other way around. Teach caution at intersections and cross streets. Never allow biking with music.
Help your child pick her route. Better yet, ride it with her the first time and see how she handles hazards and intersections. Point out possible issues and make suggestions for safe riding. She might roll her eyes at you, but you’ll feel better the next time she takes off on her own. Kids need to view their bikes as vehicles, not toys.
Finally, make sure your child’s bike fits his body size. While it’s tempting to let him grow into his older brother’s bike, too-big bikes are often unwieldy, causing kids to struggle to keep upright.
Teaching your child about bike safety will make waving goodbye at the top of the driveway a little easier the next time she heads out on her own.