There are few more memorable achievements for a child growing up than when they first learn to ride a bike. It’s a great moment. And while as a parent you can be proud of them, it’s natural to feel a little nervous. Especially if you look at injury statistics about children and bicycles. But the good news is that helmets make a big difference—research shows that helmets could have prevented 85% of all bicycle-related mortality.
Helmets Prevent Pediatric Head Injury
According to a study from Injury Epidemiology, younger children are at greater risk of bicycle injury than adults, yet their helmet use is low. Less than half of children age 14 and under usually wear a helmet when riding their bikes.
But if a child is wearing a helmet in an auto crash, it can save their life. In that same study, 226 bicyclists were treated for injuries caused by a moving vehicle. With a median age of 11, the helmeted cyclists were less likely to sustain a head injury than kids who weren’t wearing helmets. And the kids who were injured while wearing helmets were less likely to be diagnosed with a more severe head injury.
Without a doubt, when your child wears a bike helmet, they are less likely to receive head injuries. And if your child’s head does get injured when they’re wearing a helmet, it will likely be less severe.
Helmet Laws in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania
State lawmakers have reacted to these statistics and enforced the use of helmets for children riding bicycles. In the state of New Jersey, children must wear helmets. The New Jersey Motor Vehicles and Traffic Regulation laws, under Title 39:4-10.1, state that “anyone under 17 years of age that rides a bicycle or is a passenger on a bicycle or is towed as a passenger by a bicycle must wear a safety helmet.” So whether your child is a passenger on your bicycle or riding their own, they must be wearing a helmet.
The rules are similar in the state of New York, where any child under the age of 14 must wear a helmet on a bike. Children from ages 1-4 must wear a certified bicycle helmet and sit in a specially designed child safety seat.
While the age is lower for required helmet use in the state of Pennsylvania, it’s still a law. Any child under the age of 12 must wear a helmet while riding their bicycle, riding as a passenger, or in an attached seat or trailer. Pennsylvania strongly recommends that every person wear a helmet, no matter their age.
New Jersey Bike Safety Programs
Starting in 2014, SHAPE America published Bikeology, a curriculum designed for physical education teachers to teach young children bike safety. Anyone can download and use the curriculum to teach their own children or kids in their neighborhood.
The Bikeology program works. It was created by consulting physical and bicycle education specialists, as well as injury prevention experts. The curriculum was put through vigorous testing. Nine teachers and 300 students pilot-tested the curriculum to ensure that it secured bike safety.
Tips to Keep Your Child Safe While Bicycling
The number one way to keep your child safe while bicycling is by wearing a helmet. On top of that, here are some other safety tips from the United States Department of Transportation:
- Check that your child’s bike fits them properly
- Before riding, inflate tires fully and test the brakes
- Put your child in bright, fluorescent colors while riding so they are easily seen
- Teach your children to ride their bikes with both hands on the handlebars
- Have children look out for any obstacles in the road, like potholes or broken glass