Riding A Bike This Summer? Wear Your Helmet!
With spring and summer approaching very quickly, there are a few important things to consider regarding the safety of you and your family members. Once the weather is warmer, the number of outside activities will increase, which includes running and riding bicycles. Riding a bike is a great way to experience the outdoors. It can also provide a number of important health benefits, including cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength/flexibility, and stress relief. However, it is extremely important to wear a helmet while riding your bike, even if you are only riding in your own neighborhood.
Falling off of your bike or being hit by a car can result in a traumatic brain injury (TBI), which can cause long-term disability or even death. Every time you ride your bike, you put yourself at risk of having a head injury. In Missouri, this risk is highest for children under 15. ¹ Statistics in Missouri also indicate that from 1993 through 2003, helmet use has gone up, but the same studies show that 86.6% of victims with traumatic brain injuries were not wearing a helmet at the time of their accidents. ¹
Bicycling Accidents and Tips to Prevent Them
There are many ways a bike accident can occur. For example, you can fall off, run into an object, slide on ice, or in the worst case, you can be struck by a moving vehicle. Because people riding on bikes don’t have a lot of protection (or any really), they have a much higher risk of injury or death than people riding in an enclosed vehicle. Most people are aware of this obvious fact, however, studies show that two-thirds of children and many more adults in Missouri don’t wear helmets. ¹ According to the National Safety Council, in 2015, over half of the bicyclists killed on the road were not wearing a helmet. ²
Bike accidents and related injuries can be significantly reduced by:
- Making sure your children’s helmet is fastened correctly and monitoring them while they are riding.
- Riding with the flow of traffic.
- Using designated bike lanes when available.
- Using a headlamp and wearing reflective gear.
- Refraining from wearing dark clothing while riding at night.
- Finding an alternative means of transportation when there is snow or ice on the ground.
Why Wear A Helmet?
It is no surprise that wearing a helmet while riding a bike can significantly reduce your risk of severe injuries or death. In fact, helmet statistics regarding motorcycle accidents show an increase in hospitalization for traumatic brain injuries for people who would have otherwise not survived. ¹ Further, 90% percent of bike fatalities nationwide involve kids aged 14 and older. ¹ In some states, helmet laws stop at the age of 14. However, in St. Louis County, the law requires that children must wear a helmet while riding a bike until the age of 16. ³
Types Of Helmets and How to Pick One
While wearing a helmet is key, it is also important to make sure that you are wearing a helmet that fits correctly and is made for that particular activity. Helmets are designed for specific trauma patterns related to particular activities and misuse of a helmet (wearing a skiing helmet while riding a bike) might not provide the best protection. When choosing a helmet, the cost is not a good predictor of performance. Teardrop-shaped road helmets are generally better than the round “urban” helmets. It is also important to make sure the helmet has a high safety rating and that it fits correctly. One way of establishing fit is to put the helmet on, tighten the harness, and then jump up and down; the helmet should not move.
When buying a helmet for your child, it is a good idea to let them pick it out. Kids are more likely to wear a helmet they like. Also, make sure the helmet is Department of Transportation (DOT) approved. Helmets that meet the DOT safety standard code (FMVSS 218) must have a sticker on the outside of the helmet with the letters “DOT.” It is also important to avoid painting a helmet or using duct tape, as this can damage the shell. Stickers are generally a safe option.
We Are Here to Help
In the unfortunate event that you or a family member is injured by a driver while riding your bike on the road, please give us a call. We would love to help!
¹ Homan, S.G., Kabeer, N.H., Kayani, N.A., Feyerharm, R.W., & Zhu, B.P. (2006). The Public Health Burden of Traumatic Brain Injuries In Missouri. Jefferson City, MO: Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Division of Community and Public Health.
³ St. Louis County Ordinance 616.175