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That may sound like obvious advice, but a recent national poll by the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan found that 1 out of 5 parents don't require their child to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle.
Even fewer parents of the more than 1,300 parents surveyed enforce helmet safety when it comes to scooters and skateboards: 1 in 4 parents said their child never wears a helmet while riding a scooter, and 1 in 3 parents said their child isn't helmeted while skateboarding.
Safety strategies while riding bikes in the street also varied widely. Parents reported doing a pretty good job of making sure their kids stop at stop signs and give the right of way to cars. But only half said their child walks their bicycle at crosswalks, and just 22 percent said their child uses hand signals for turning.
Helmets save lives
Wearing helmets and following basic safety rules helps prevent serious injuries. Almost 50 children go to emergency departments every hour because of an injury related to riding a bike, skateboard, or scooter, according to a 2017 survey by Safe Kids Worldwide.
Even if your child isn't riding on the road or anywhere near traffic, he can still get hurt if he crashes into something or gets thrown off his bike and hits his head. And even before your child learns to ride a bike, he should wear a helmet when he's riding as a passenger with an adult.
Speaking to the New York Times, poll codirector Dr. Gary Freed said wearing a helmet should be a nonnegotiable rule for kids riding bikes, scooters, or skateboards.
Other important bike and wheel-sports safety tips include:
- Wear helmets correctly: Your child's helmet should fit snugly on her head and cover the forehead. It shouldn't be tipped backward or forward. Buckle the chinstrap and tighten it so that no more than one or two fingers fit between the chin and strap. Make sure the helmet doesn't rock back and forth or side to side by more than an inch.
- Model good behavior: Wear a helmet yourself. Ride with your kid when he's young and teach him safe behaviors, such as slowing down, using a bell, using appropriate hand signals, and staying alert for vehicles backing out of driveways and people opening car doors. Safe Kids Worldwide recommends that kids under 10 years old ride only on sidewalks, bike paths, and in parks – not on the road.
- Get the proper equipment: Make sure your child's bicycle is the right size for her and that her feet can touch the ground. Ensure brakes, reflectors, gears, and tires are in good condition before riding. Beware of long or loose clothing that could get caught in the chain or bicycle wheel spokes.
Check out SafeKids.org and BabyCenter's bicycle safety tips for more information.
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