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Every year during the warm months, I get contacted by an injured bicyclist. Some of those cases are catastrophic because the victim was not wearing a helmet, or was wearing a helmet but it was either outdated or did not fit properly. I must admit that it wasn’t until I became involved in these types of cases that I truly understood how dangerous it is to ride a bicycle without a helmet.
To understand the full magnitude of bicycle injury cases, we must first understand that there are 85 million bicycle riders in the United States. In 2005, 720 bicyclists died in crashes with motor vehicles, and about 540,000 visited emergency rooms with some form of injuries. Of those, 27,000 had injuries which were serious enough to be hospitalized.
It is a fact that properly fitting helmets have been shown to reduce serious head injuries by 85%. Couple this with the fact that 39% of all deaths from cycling injuries occur in children under the age of 15, and it becomes clear why wearing a helmet is so important. Most people wrongly believe that wearing a helmet is only important if you bike on a road where there are cars and trucks; but in reality most injuries occur – especially with children – during low speed falls.
When you buy a helmet, make sure it looks good on you because if you don’t, you won’t wear it. Helmets come in all different colors, shapes, and sizes. Only buy a helmet that meets the bicycle helmet safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). If the helmet meets the standards it will be labeled inside. All helmets manufactured or imported after March 1999 must comply with the CPSC standards, and older helmets should be certified by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or Snell Memorial Foundation.
Helmets must be the right size or they will not work. They should be worn on top of the head covering the top of the forehead, and should never be tipped back. If the helmet moves around or slides down around your eyes, adjust it to make it tighter. When you buy a helmet for your child, keep in mind that it will come with removable fitting pads. These can be removed as your child’s head grows, so the helmet will last for years.
Please remember these tips before you hop on a bike this weekend. It’s smart for you, it’s smart for your child, and it’s the law!