If your child doesn't want to wear a bicycle helmet or if you're unsure about whether he needs one, keep in mind that bicycle injuries lead to emergency room visits for 100 children each day in the U.S., while bicycle accidents kill at least one child every three days. You can protect your child from these types of injuries and fatalities by making sure he always wears a helmet.
Bicycle helmets reduce the risk of injuries to the brain and head by nearly 90 percent, yet a poll conducted by the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital found that 25 percent of children between 4 and 17 do not wear a helmet at all. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that if all children between the ages of 4 and 15 wore helmets, up to 45,000 head injuries and up to 55,000 face and scalp injuries would be prevented each year.
According to the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, helmet use more than doubles in areas that have helmet laws compared with areas that do not. No federal law exists that requires helmet use for bicyclists. California passed the first helmet law in 1986 and added an amendment in 1994 to include all children under 18. The District of Columbia and 21 states have laws mandating helmet use. The age limit differs from state to state but generally covers children under 16. Local municipalities around the country also enforce their own helmet laws. Although many areas have helmet laws, 14 states do not have any local or state laws.
The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital poll found that some parents do not enforce helmet use with their children because they consider the cost of a bicycle helmet too expensive. However, paying an average price of $15 to $20 for a bicycle helmet will spare you much costlier medical bills if your child is in an accident. The NHTSA estimates that $8 billion is spent every year on injuries and deaths related to bicycle accidents.
Look for the Consumer Product Safety Commission label when purchasing a helmet for your child. The CPSC enforces mandatory standards for children's bicycle helmets as a result of the Child Safety Protection Act of 1994. Helmets must pass performance tests to ensure that they provide impact protection, additional head coverage for children between 1 and 5 years old, strong and secure chinstraps, stability and 105 degrees of peripheral vision on either side and in front.
Get your child in the habit of wearing a helmet when riding by having her wear one when she is still using a tricycle. Set a good example for your child by putting a helmet on when you ride a bicycle. Tell him why it's important to wear one, and use examples such as athletes to illustrate how helmets are used for protection. Show your child enthusiasm and affection when she puts a helmet on to ride her bicycle. Refuse to let your child ride one at all unless he wears a helmet. Take the whole family out riding and make sure that all of you are wearing helmets. Talk to your child's friends about helmet safety if they do not wear helmets.