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Helmet Safety

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), only 11 percent of children involved in bicycle accidents wear a helmet. And according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),

…an estimated 33 million children ride bicycles for nearly 10 billion hours each year. Unfortunately, an average of 384 children die annually from bicycle crashes, and 450,000 more are treated in EDs for bicycle-riding related injuries. Each year, about¬†153,000 children get treatment in hospital emergency departments for bicycle-related head injuries.

5 Helmet Safety Tips

You can prevent head injuries by following these helmet safety tips:

#1 – Always wear a helmet.

A helmet should be worn EVERY time you ride a bike.

#2 – Be an example for your kids.

Parents should always set a good example by wearing a helmet EVERY time they ride a bike.

#3 – Wear a helmet when skateboarding.

Children and adults should always wear a helmet when skateboarding.

#4 – Make sure your helmet fits properly.

To ensure that a bike helmet is properly fitted:

  • Make sure the helmet is snug but not too tight.
  • Your helmet should not wobble or come off easily; it should be level on top of your head.
  • Always buckle the strap when wearing a helmet; don’t just place your helmet on top of your head!

*See the video below for a demonstration on how to properly fit a helmet.

#5 – Replace your helmet when necessary.

Most sources recommend replacing a helmet every 3 – 5 years if it has undergone normal wear and tear. if a bike helmet has been involved in a severe collision/accident, you may want to replace it immediately.

Prevent More Serious Head Injuries; Wear a Helmet

Concussions can still occur if you wear a helmet, but they will not be as severe compared to if you aren’t wearing a helmet. Additionally, helmets can prevent abrasions, lacerations (cuts), and skull fractures that occur from a direct blow of the head onto cement or pavement.

Are there any ages where it is mandatory to wear a helmet?

No state has a universal bicycle helmet law. Only 21 states and the District of Columbia have statewide bicycle helmet laws, and they apply only to young riders (riders younger than 16). Local ordinances in a few other states require bicycle helmets for some or all riders.

How common are head injuries in children who don’t wear helmets?

Head injuries are very common in children who do not wear helmets when riding a bicycle. While helmets will not necessarily prevent all head injuries, they certainly lessen the severity. I have seen parents feel VERY guilty because they didn’t enforce a helmet rule, and their child subsequently had a bad head injury. A helmet is an affordable safety adjunct that should not be forgotten.

Pictured: Jen Wheeler, Nicole Griffin, Michelle Florence, Noreen Suchsland, Dr. Jessica Hart, Natasha Quao, Lillian Nassar, Dr. Elizabeth Cleland-Roberts, Cheryl Gelinas-Watson, Rina Pravia, Ieisha Owens, Patia Soriano, Lala Barnes

Related Reading/Resources

About Amy Griffin, MD

Dr. Griffin is the medical director of WakeMed Children’s Emergency Department. She specializes in pediatric emergency medicine.