The warm days of May prompt millions of Americans to pull their bicycles out of their garages, dust off the cobwebs, oil the chains and go for a ride. But the sad fact is that riding a bicycle can be dangerous. The number of bicyclists killed or injured each month is truly staggering, and children are often the victims. To help curb bike injuries and fatalities, AAA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have partnered to remind parents to set positive examples and encourage children and teens to ride safely. One key is to require children to wear safety helmets.
“Helmets, when worn properly, are up to 85 percent effective in protecting the head and brain in the event of a crash,” says AAA’s Traffic Safety Specialist Rhonda Markos. “With only 20 to 25 percent of bicyclists wearing helmets, there is a vast opportunity to reduce injuries and fatalities with this simple step. Children look to parents for guidance. When children see someone they rely on wearing a helmet, they are likely to follow their lead and do the same.”
You should also remember that concern about bicycle safety should extend beyond childhood. The simple fact of reaching puberty doesn’t protect people from possible injury. According to NHTSA, among children, 10- to 14-year-old males have the highest rate of injuries and fatalities. Older teenagers and adults are also part of overall bicycle accident statistics.
“Even the most experienced riders can crash or fall when riding a bike,” says Markos.
AAA and NHTSA recommend these easy steps to help keep bicyclists of all ages safe:
- Wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet
- Wear your helmet the right way: level on your head and low on your forehead, no more than two finger-widths above your eyebrow
- Develop a family rule for helmet use and enforce it for every ride
- It’s never too late to start wearing a helmet
- Always follow the rules of the road
- Bicycles are considered vehicles and must abide by the same traffic laws as motorists
- Obey all traffic signs, and signal your intentions when turning or passing
- Always ride in the same direction as traffic, keeping to the right
- Make yourself visible
- Wear bright colors during daylight hours
- Use white front-lights and red rear-reflectors, as well as reflective materials on clothing and/or equipment, in low-light conditions
- Drive respectfully and share the road
- Focus exclusively on the road while driving; distracted drivers can be deadly for bicyclists
- Be patient and pass bicyclists only when safe to do so, leaving a 3-to 5-foot clearance between your vehicle and the bicyclist
“When it comes to bicycling, safety is always the top priority,” says U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “Because parents and caregivers are role models for children, it is especially critical they teach by example. That means wearing proper helmets and observing all the rules of the road.”