“I rode my bike without a helmet when I was a kid and look…I’m still alive!” Parents across the country struggle with their children to wear a helmet as they set off on an innocent bike ride. But times have changed – bikes are built to go faster and traffic has increased making bike riding without a helmet a recipe for disaster.
So why are bicycle helmets necessary? It is reported that young cyclists are more likely to die of head injuries than adult cyclists and that most of those fatalities were results of motor vehicle collisions. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute offers some sobering statistics:
“In 2009 alone, 630 bicyclists died in the United States. Of those, 74 victims were 14 years of age or younger. In 2000, it is reported that head injuries accounted for 62.6% of bicycle fatalities, collisions with motor vehicles accounted for 75.7% of bicycle fatalities, and 61.7% of motor vehicle collision deaths were due to head injury in children 0-19 years of age.”
How does a bicycle helmet work? Helmets are similar to lobsters – the hard shell on the outside protects its squishy, vulnerable center. But bicycle helmets have an additional safety feature that lobsters don’t have – an impact-absorbing center (usually a foam liner). The liner crushes inward to absorb most of the crash energy in the case of a head-on collision or even for a simple fall.
Simply put, it’s kind of like when Superman jumps on the train tracks to slow a passenger-laden train before arriving at the blown out bridge. The foam (Superman) crushes down and doesn’t bounce back – eventually your skull (the train) slows down and stops just prior to a “major catastrophe.” Without a helmet, the brain whips around in the skull causing serious damage or death.
What should you look for in a helmet? There are so many places to look, but these are the things you need to protect your child’s future:
- Be sure the helmet has a safety certification seal from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- Let your child help you pick a helmet that he/she likes.
- Make sure the helmet fits snugly, but not too tightly.
- Adjust the chin strap so it’s snug and allows only two fingers between the chin and strap when buckled.
- The triangle straps should be in front of and under your ears.
- The brim should rest about an inch above your eyebrows.
We can’t tell you the right words to use with your child, but we encourage you to stand strong in your Helmet War fight. Make them wear it or don’t let them ride at all. Be your child’s Superman!