Summer signals sun and fun for kids. It is also peak season for bicycle injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates annually more than 500,000 bicycle-related injuries require emergency care and about 26,000 of those bicycle-related injuries to children and adolescents are traumatic brain injuries treated in emergency departments .
"We treat far too many bike injuries that could have easily been prevented by following a few simple and inexpensive safety tips," said Siddhartha Rath, MD, Medical Director of Trauma Services at Medical City Arlington. "One of the most important precautions for anyone on two wheels is head protection."
Bicyclists should always wear a helmet because the protection significantly lowers the risk of head and brain injuries during a crash. Helmets should meet or exceed the safety standards from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In an effort to reduce those devastating injuries, Medical City Arlington recently hosted an event, issuing nearly 300 free bicycle helmets to children in the community.
When it comes to helmets, fit is important. Children should be checked regularly to make sure they have not outgrown their helmet. Follow these five steps to help ensure a proper fit:
- Place the helmet squarely on the head.
- Make sure the front of the helmet covers the forehead – approximately 2 finger widths (1 inch) above the eyebrows.
- Adjust the straps on both sides so the slider forms a “V” shape under the ears.
- Center the buckle under the chin and tighten the straps for a comfortable snug fit – no more then 1 -2 fingers should fit under the strap.
- Test the fit by pushing the helmet with the hand - It should be level and not rock forward and backward or side to side. If it shifts or slides easily, readjust the straps or use the pads included with the helmet to make it fit. If this doesn’t work, the helmet may be too big.
Bikes should also be properly maintained and the right size, especially for children:
- Don’t buy a bike for a child to grow into – their feet should touch the ground when they sit on the seat.
- Ensure the reflectors are secure, the brakes work, gears shift smoothly and that tires are secure and properly inflated.
Bike safety should be observed during the day and night, but the rules vary:
- Wear fluorescent clothing in the daytime and retro-reflective clothing at night to be visible to drivers.
- Mount white front lights, rear red lights or other lighting on the bicycle or the bicyclist.
- Do not ride a bicycle when it is dark, foggy, raining or other low visibility conditions.
Learn the rules of the road and obey the traffic laws:
- Ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, not against it. Stay as far to the right as possible. If a bike lane is present, always use it.
- Use hand signals – to turn left, stick the left arm straight out to the left; to turn right, stick the right arm straight out to the right; to signal a stop, drop the left arm straight down with the palm open.
- Stop at all stop signs and stop lights.
- Stop, look left, then right, then left again before entering a street or crossing an intersection. Use traffic stop buttons if available.
- Always to look back and yield to traffic coming from behind before turning left.
Bicycling is a great way to have fun in the sun with family and friends, with the added health benefit of exercise. Following these tips, during May National Bicycle Safety Month and beyond, can help make sure cyclists stay on the pavement and out of the emergency room.