Because the head is the heaviest part of the body, it is usually the first to make contact with a hard surface during a fall.
While most fatalities are caused on busy streets by collisions between bikers and motorists, a traumatic topple can occur anywhere a bicycle can go, including sidewalks, bike paths and playground asphalt.
Even very young children traveling at slow to moderate speeds can hit a bump, flip over the handlebars, and make lethal contact with a curb or sharp rock.
Unfortunately, in most cases, the angle of the impact and portion of the head that is struck do not allow a rider to emerge unscathed.
“The solution is quite simple, and in most cases, life-saving – wear a helmet,” Jason Sanders, director of emergency services at Takoma Adventist Hospital, said. “Even on short trips. Even in hot weather. Even if it flattens your hairdo or you think it makes you look weird. In a moment of crisis, a bicycle helmet can make the difference between life and death.”
A recent study has proven that bicycle helmets can cut riders’ risk of head injury by 85 percent and brain injury by 88 percent, Sanders said. “Helmets are particularly important for children because they are most likely to suffer head injuries,” he said.
Fit & Fashionable
Children -- and adults! -- should wear bicycle helmets, even for short trips, Sanders said. Toddlers who are riding in carrier seats also should be protected with helmets. “When parents wear helmets, they are setting an example for the children, as well as providing for their own safety,” he said.
Sanders shares these helpful helmet tips sure to keep you safe this summer:
Cycling Safety 101
- Look for both children’s and adult’s helmets that are certified by recognized testing agencies. Helmets should carry one of two certifications – the “Z90.4” label of the American National Standards Institute, or the approval of the Snell Memorial Foundation.
- Be sure the helmet fits properly so as to protect the forehead without tipping forward or back.
- Allow children to help pick out the helmets they’ll be using. Encourage their friends to wear helmets too.
- If your helmet is in a crash, don’t use it again. Buy a new one, but keep the old one as a reminder that wearing a helmet does really matter.
You can also help prevent bicycling accidents by making sure that your child’s bike is the correct size, has reflectors and is safely maintained, Sanders noted.
Teach children to always stop and look “left-right-left” before entering the road, he said. “Instruct your child on the bicycle rules of the road,” Sanders said. “Bicyclists should ride single file on the right side of the street and signal their intentions.”
On roads and highways, cyclists must obey the same traffic laws that apply to motor vehicle operators, he said.
“Never allow your child to ride at night or wear audio headphones when bicycling,” Sanders said. “And last, but not least, exercising common sense, good judgment, and reasonable caution are the very best defense against accidents.”
For more information, please contact Takoma Adventist Hospitals’ Emergency Department at 636-2360.