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Prevention of bicycle injuries in children

It is estimated that over 44.3 million children and youth ride bicycles in the United States. Bicycles result in more childhood injuries than any other consumer product except automobiles. Children between the ages of 5 and 14 are at the highest risk for bicycle injury. These injuries are usually caused by collision with a fixed or moving object or a fall. Children between 10 and 15 years old have the highest rate of death. Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability in bicycle crashes, but also injuries to the musculoskeletal system and internal organs can lead to death.

Bicycle helmets are the single most effective way for preventing significant bicycle injuries. It is estimated that wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head and brain injuries by 63 to 88 percent and facial injuries by 65 percent.

The United States consumer product safety commission (CPSC) has established federal safety standards for all bicycle helmets sold in the United States. Helmets that meet the CPSC standard have a CPSC sticker on the inside liner. It is important that bicycle helmets older than 5 years be replaced due to possible product deterioration. Also if the helmet has been in a crash in which the head has hit a hard surface or a fall resulting in marks on the shell, it should be replaced. Children should always wear a helmet for all wheeled sports activities. There are separate helmets used for skateboarding that are also certified by the CPSC. It is important that the helmet fits properly. The bicycle Helmet Safety Institute has developed guidelines for fitting helmets. This can be found and downloaded from their website at www.bhsi.org/fit.htm.

Proper equipment and maintenance are important. Make sure that your child's bike is the right size and is adjusted properly. When the child is sitting on the seat their feet should be able to touch the ground. Make sure the reflectors are in place and brakes and gears are working properly. Also check to see that the tires are inflated properly. Do not allow your child to wear loose clothing that can get caught in the chains or spokes.

It is important to monitor your children and keep them off of the road till they are old enough and can demonstrate riding competence and have a good knowledge of the rules of the road. If riding at dusk always have appropriate reflective clothing, lights and reflectors.

Be a good model for your children and teach good behavior by wearing a helmet if you are a bike rider.

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