Biking can be a great activity for kids. It’s the first mode of transportation, other than walking or skateboarding, that children can experience independently before being able to get their driver’s license. It also frees up parents from having to drive their kids everywhere.
There are many advantages to kids learning how to ride a bike. Biking is an excellent mode of transportation for the environment, it’s a good form of exercise (important to keep in mind with child obesity at an all-time high in America), and it reduces pesky traffic.
But despite all these great attributes, biking still comes with some amount of danger. This danger increases when it’s kids and not adults on the bikes.
Although many kids ride their bikes without a problem every day, injuries are not rare. “Every year, about 300,000 kids go to the emergency department because of bike injuries, and at least 10,000 kids have injuries that require a few days in the hospital.” To prevent or minimize the risk of injuries, parents need to be vigilant about teaching their kids how to ride safely and responsibly. From wearing a helmet to knowing their hand signals, there are many things children can do to protect themselves when they hit the road on their two-wheelers.
The Dangers Children Face on Bikes
Biking can be a dangerous activity. And when kids are involved, the danger only increases. Kids do not know the risks as well as most adults, and are prone to making reckless decisions like riding out onto the street without checking for approaching cars, racing with their friends, not wearing a helmet, and practicing dangerous bike tricks. That is when injuries happen. CBS reported that the most common bike-related injuries were to the upper extremities, such us cuts, scrapes, bruises, fractures, and the most serious of all—brain injuries.
How to Keep Your Kids Safe While Biking
When your kids are ready to hit the road, it’s important to take the time to teach them how to stay safe while using a bicycle. Here are some helpful tips on bicycle safety to keep in mind:
- Wear a helmet: It’s common sense, yet many kids don’t do it because of the fear that it might make them appear dorky. However, head protection is crucial when an accident happens. Wearing a helmet will reduce your child’s chances of sustaining a brain injury if they happen to be involved in a crash. Plus, everyone under 17 has to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle in New Jersey. It’s the law, unless you’re on a road closed to motor vehicle traffic.
- Have reflectors and lights: Ensure that your child’s bike is as visible as possible to cars and pedestrians, especially at dusk.
- Take your time picking the right bike: Getting the appropriately-sized bike is crucial to keeping your child safe. A bike that’s the wrong size can be harder to control and therefore might result in an accident.
- Practice: Don’t let your kids take their bikes onto a busy street on their second time riding. Make sure they start out slow somewhere that is safe for practice, like a large empty parking lot or a slow residential street or park.
- Defensive riding: Instill in your kids the fact that as bike riders, they have to be alert to their surroundings. They cannot count on the car drivers around them. Drivers have the protection of their entire car, while bicyclists are open to serious injuries if they’re hit by a car.
- Perform bike maintenance: If they’re old enough, teach your kids how to perform basic bike maintenance like oiling the chain, checking the tires, and checking the brakes regularly for any issues.
- Wear bike-safe clothing: Some clothes are not made for riding a bike. Make sure that your kids avoid wearing loose long pants, loose shoelaces, flip-flops, or anything that might get caught in the bike chain.
- Look out for obstacles: Sometimes kids look at obstacles as challenges, and put themselves in harm’s way. Instead, teach them to avoid puddles, gravel, rocks, and anything else that could potentially throw them off their bike and end in an unnecessary injury.
- Learn the hand signals for turning: Hand signals should be common, yet many bicyclists don’t know how to use them. Make sure to teach your kids to the hand signals for left turn, right turn, and stop.
- Watch out for parked cars: When riding a bicycle, it’s crucial to avoid being too close to parked cars whose doors can swing open unexpectedly.
If your child was injured while riding a bike in New Jersey, Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C. may be able to help you. As bicyclists ourselves, we know bicycle accidents on the road, in the hospital, and in the courtroom. We will fight to get you the maximum compensation possible, if another person caused or contributed to your child’s accident. Please call us at (609) 240-0040 to set up a free consultation.