Summer Biking Safety

Dad helping son with bike helmetIt is that time of year again when families and children are engaging in outdoor activities, including bicycling, one of my favorite sports. If you haven’t taken your bike out from winter storage, it is time to do so. Check the tires, brakes and lights and do not forget your helmet. Check it for cracks, torn straps and loose padding. Do this not just for yourself but for your family members as well.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2013 reported 677 pedal-cyclist deaths in 2011 and 14 percent of those were 14 years of age and younger. That figure does not include the 300,000 or so children who visit the emergency department and the 10,000 or more that spend a few days in the hospital due to bike injuries.

The data simply emphasizes the need for helmet safety. If you are uncertain about your helmet or your child’s helmet, look for the Consumer Product Safety Commission sticker or talk to a professional at the bike shop.

This may also be a good time to review hand signals with your children. A few minutes of a safety lesson may mean the difference between no injury and a serious injury.

Bicycle seat and trailers are also on the need-to-check list. There are many varieties on the market and your bike professional can advise you about what is best. The NHTSA does not recommend bicycle carriers for children under the age 1 for safety reasons. Trailers may be an option for your needs, but again, the type you choose may depend on the age and weight of your child.

The time it takes to do a safety inspection on all your bicycle gear and to review safety rules is minimal and well worth it. I hope to see you on the bike trails!

By Dr. James Powell

Chief Medical Officer at Avera Health Plans

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