Ask the expert: About bike safety

Q. What are the best bike-riding ground rules to enforce to help keep mychild safe?

A. “Almost three in four kids ages 5 to 14 ride bikes, and it is a great way for children to stay active,” says Anthony DeRoss, MD, Medical Director of the Level I Pediatric Trauma Center at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

While you cannot prevent every crash, Dr. DeRoss recommends the following tips to help protect your young cyclist:

  • Make sure you check the bike’s brakes and tires before riding.
  • Buy a bike that is the correct size for your child. “Your child should be able to sit on the seat and place both hands on the handlebars,” says Dr. DeRoss. “The balls of his or her feet should touch the ground.”
  • Teach your child to avoid bicycling at night.
  • Explain the proper hand signals and make sure your child uses them.
  • Teach your child to assume that any parked car – including cars in driveways – has the potential to have its doors opened or move suddenly, and that drivers in cars may not always see the cyclist.
  • Allow your child to ride without supervision only after he or she has shown that he or she can always follow the rules.

A hint on helmets

To further ensure your child’s safety, make sure he or she always wears a helmet. “Helmets protect your child’s skull both from impact and from crushing forces, which can cause brain damage or even death,” says Dr. DeRoss.

Choose a helmet for your child with a label inside that says “CPSC.” That means it has been tested for safety. Dr. DeRoss also offers these recommendations:

  • Make sure your child wears a helmet every time he or she rides, even on short rides around the neighborhood. If you ride, wear a helmet, too – to protect yourself and set an example.
  • Make sure each rider has a helmet that properly fits.

Hooray for helmets

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Medical Director
Level I Pediatric Trauma Center
UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital
Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

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