Statistically-speaking, about 25 kids an hour end up in emergency rooms after being injured while riding their bikes, and the majority of these mishaps occur during the summertime. While things like wearing helmets and bike safety awareness have reduced the number of serious accidents and injuries over the past couple of decades, this latest estimate shows how biking remains, at its core, an inherently-dangerous activity.
Older Kids are More-Vulnerable
Surprisingly, older kids tend to get more seriously-injured than their younger counterparts. Part of the problem is that they tend to go farther and faster, and they also ride in areas that more-hazardous. Parents tend to give older kids more breathing-room and less supervision as well, and this creates the perfect conditions for accidents to happen.
While younger kids fall or crash more-often, they tend to do so in safe areas and at slower rates of speed. Consequently, injuries generally involve things like bruises, cuts and scrapes whereas older kids tend to suffer from broken bones, serious cuts and head injuries.
Good training and modeling are the best ways that parents and guardians can reinforce bicycle safety and instill good riding habits. Little things like wearing helmets, following the rules of the road, and using caution while riding on sidewalks or along crowded paths can make a big difference in terms of reducing the number as well as severity of crashes. Just as motorists need some basic training before being able to get a license, kids need training before riding their bikes. The good news is that these efforts pay off because kids are more-likely to adopt safe riding practices if they see their parents or older siblings taking the same precautions.
Just as defensive driving is key to staying safe on the road, defensive biking is key to minimizing crashes as well. In fact, the majority of crashes that kids experience are the result of trying to avoid hitting someone who crossed their path without warning. Consequently, it’s important to teach kids about dangers they can encounter as well as how to avoid them. Slowing down, avoiding riding on challenging terrain or unfavorable road conditions, staying out of traffic, using proper hand signals, and riding bikes equipped with lights and reflectors are just a few examples to consider.
Above all else, maintaining good situational awareness and having time to react appropriately are key to avoiding crashes and subsequent injuries. However, it takes time to develop these skills, and it’s important that kids are kept on a short leash until they’re capable of using good judgment on their own.
Helmets are Important
While being safety-minded can help to reduce crashes, they won’t prevent them completely. Helmets and pads are the best line of defense against injuries, and it’s important to resist the temptation to leave them off, even if the ride seems safe at the time. Remember that accidents usually happen without warning, and even the most-skilled riders can crash from time to time. The majority of serious injuries are directly related to not wearing protection, and these simple steps can mean the difference between walking away from a crash or suffering from permanent brain damage. Never underestimate the effectiveness, and importance, of being protected before heading out.
Poorly-maintained bikes are another leading cause of crashes, and it’s important that they are in good repair before riding. Common problems such as loose seats and handlebars as well as worn brakes, grips and tires can all create hazards that contribute to a significant percentage of crashes that lead to injuries. Make sure that bikes are in good condition before riding them, and teach kids how to inspect and address problems as they crop up.
Keep in mind that while 25 kids may end up in emergency rooms per hour, this represents a small percentage of total crashes, and tens of thousands of kids are injured every year. While we may not be able to prevent crashes from occurring, a little bit of awareness and training can go a long way to reduce their severity. Take some time to think about bike safety and how you can instill good practices and habits into young riders, and feel free to share some insights that you have as well.