Keeping kids safe while bike riding

Free helmets available:

Does your child need a new helmet? Come to The Memorial Hospital Back-to-School Health Fair!

The first 250 children will receive a free bike helmet, along with a new backpack and school supplies. Experts will also be on hand to help fit helmets and share bike safety tips. Bike helmets are provided as a courtesy of the Nathan B. and Florence R. Burt Foundation and the Yampa Valley Electric Association Caring Consumers Foundation. Various health screenings for kids will also be offered.

When: Saturday, Aug. 17

Time: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Where: TMH Medical Clinic, 785 Russell Street

Cost: Free

Contact: 970-824-9411

— 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 children are ready to venture off on their own. Making sure they understand 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.

A common place for kids to get hit is in driveways. It can happen in an instant. Kids ride down their driveway and into the street without stopping; or they cross a driveway on the sidewalk and get struck by someone backing up. Although cars are often involved in accidents, head injuries happen even when they’re not. According to a study by the New England Medical Center, helmets prevent 88 percent 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 they insist. Get buy-in by letting them pick out, or decorate, their helmets, 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.

Children younger than 9 have a hard time cognitively judging distance and measuring the speed of cars. It’s a good idea to limit their riding to quiet sidewalks and bike paths.

Help your child pick her route. Better yet, ride it with them the first time and see how they handle hazards and intersections. Point out possible issues and make suggestions for safe riding. They might roll her eyes at you, but you’ll feel better the next time they take off on their own. Kids need to view their bikes as vehicles, not toys.

Finally, make sure your child’s bike fits their body size. While it’s tempting to let them grow into their older sibling’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.

This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig – improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through quality healthcare and service excellence.

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