Bicycle, in-line skating and skateboarding safety
Common errors children and adolescents make when riding bicycles include:
- riding into the street without stopping
- running stop signs
- turning left or swerving into traffic that is coming from behind
- riding against the flow of traffic
However, when children and adolescents wear helmets while riding their bikes, they can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent. Head injury is the most common cause of death in bicycle-related deaths.
In-line skating has rapidly gained popularity since off-season ice hockey players began practicing with them in the 1980s. It's estimated by the National Safety Council that there are 20 million in-line skaters, of all ages, annually. In-line skating crashes can occur even if the individual is experienced in the sport.
High-risk situations for in-line skaters include the following:
- learning to skate
- skating in the street
- crossing streets in densely populated areas
- changes in skating path conditions (such as traffic, water, potholes, or other debris)
- weather conditions that can change the surface condition of the road
As with bicycles, helmets can protect your child from serious, sometimes fatal, head injuries. In addition, other safety gear such as elbow and kneepads, gloves, and wrist guards can also minimize injuries in the event of a fall.
- Skateboards, though popular among children and adolescents, send an estimated 50,000 people to hospital emergency rooms for treatment of injuries each year, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- The most common injury from a skateboard crash is a fracture, although some skateboard falls or collisions with motor vehicles can be fatal.
- Most skateboard crashes occur because of irregular riding surfaces.
- Inexperience skateboarders are defined as skateboarders who have been skating for less than a week. They account for one-third of all skateboarding injuries.
- An injury to the wrist (sprain or fracture) is the most common result of a fall.
- Helmets and other protective gear, such as slip-resistant, closed shoes, wrist braces, and other padding may help reduce the severity of injuries in the event of a fall.
Buying the right bicycle
It's important to select a bike that is the correct size for your child. In addition, consider the following recommendations:
- The bicycle should not be too big or complicated.
- Your child should be able to place the balls of his or her feet on the ground when sitting on the seat.
- The bicycle should have a bell or horn.
Buying the right helmet
Although helmets cost between $15 and $50, they are well worth the investment because they can prevent a visit to the emergency room. When shopping for a helmet for your child, make sure it meets the following requirements:
- The helmet should be approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), or the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Approved helmets meet stringent safety standards.
- The helmet should fit your adolescent's head so that when the straps are snug, the helmet does not move around on the head.
Some helmets are multi-sport, which can be used for in-line-skating, skateboarding, bicycling, or other wheel sports. Helmets that specifically are called "bicycle helmets" are designed only for that sport. Helmets come in many sizes and varieties, including many infant sizes.
Proper helmet wear
Helmets come with sponge pads that adjust to fit the head. A properly-fitted helmet should meet the following requirements:
- The helmet should fit snug, not moving on the head of your child.
- The front edge of the helmet should be two finger widths above the eyebrows.
- Front and back straps of the helmet should form a V just below the ear
- Front straps should be vertical and the rear straps should be flat.
- The chin strap should be snug when your child opens his or her mouth (one finger should fit between the chin and chin strap when the mouth is closed).
Talk with your child about traffic and road rules, conveying the following points:
- Stop before riding into traffic from a driveway, sidewalk, parking lot, or other street.
- Look left, right, and left again to check for cars.
- If the road is clear, you can enter.
- Ride on the far right of the road, with traffic.
- Ride so cars can see you, wearing brightly colored clothes, especially at night.
- Obey all traffic signals and stop signs.
- Look back and yield to traffic coming from behind before turning left.
- Ride bicycles in single file.
- Look for uneven pavement or other surface problems.
Even experienced in-line skaters can crash and sustain injuries. The following recommendations were derived from the National Safety Council and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):
- Always wear protective gear, including elbow and kneepads, gloves, helmets and wrist guards.
- Buy durable skates with proper ankle support.
- Always warm up your muscles before skating by skating slowly for at least five minutes.
- Skate with knees slightly bent to maintain balance.
- Practice stopping: Bring the foot with the heelstop forward until the heelstop is parallel with the toes of the other foot. Bend the front knee, and lift the front foot's toes.
- Always skate on the right side of sidewalks and other paths.
- Pass on the left and warn others that you are passing.
- Avoid skating in the street, especially where there is a lot of traffic.
- Watch out for uneven pavement or other surface problems.
- Check your skates regularly for wear and tear, and make sure the wheels are tightened.
Never allow your child to skateboard on surface streets. Even experienced skateboarders can fall, so learning how to fall safely can help reduce the risk of severe injuries. The following are recommendations from the National Safety Council about how to fall correctly:
- When losing your balance, crouch down on the skateboard so your fall is short.
- Try to land on fleshy parts of your body when falling.
- Try to roll as you fall, which prevents your arms from absorbing all the force.
- Try to relax, rather than remaining stiff when falling.
When riding a skateboard, all traffic rules should be obeyed. Other safety precautions to take when skateboarding include the following:
- Wear protective gear such as helmets, padding and closed-toe and slip-resistant shoes.
- Check the skateboard for wear and tear.
- Only allow one person per skateboard.
- Do not hitch rides from bicycles, cars or other vehicles.
- Carefully practice tricks in designated skateboarding areas.
Avoiding unsafe conditions
Do not allow your child to ride his or her bike, in-line skate or skateboard during non-daylight hours or during bad weather.
Injury statistics and incidence rates
The following statistics are the latest available from the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
Injury and death rates
- A total of 130 children and adolescents ages 14 and under died in bicycle-related crashes in 2002.
- More than 285,600 children and adolescents ages 14 and under were treated for bicycle-related injuries at hospital emergency rooms in 2003.
- Nearly 27,200 children and adolescents ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for in-line skating-related injuries, and nearly 26,700 children and adolescents ages 5 to 14 were treated for roller-skating-related injuries in 2003.
- More than 50,000 children and adolescents ages 5 to 14 were treated for skateboarding-related injuries in hospital emergency rooms in 2003.
- Head injuries are the most common and severe form of injury, accounting for more than 60 percent of bicycle-related deaths, more than two-thirds of bicycle-related hospital admissions, and about one-third of hospital emergency room visits for bicycling injuries.
- Motor vehicles are involved in the majority (90 percent) of bicycle-related fatal crashes.
Where and when do accidents occur?
- Fatal bicycle-related crashes involving children and adolescents tend to occur at non-intersection locations (65 percent).
- 75 percent of child and adolescent bicycle crashes occur between May and October and between the hours of 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
- The majority of child and adolescent bicycle-related fatalities occur on minor roads, typically within one mile of the home.
- When children and adolescents ages 14 and under ride their bicycles during non-daylight hours, they are four times more likely to be injured.
- The majority of bicycle-related fatal crashes (80 percent) among children and adolescents ages 14 and under occur because of the bicyclist's behavior, such as riding into the street without stopping, swerving into traffic, running stop signs, or riding against the flow of traffic.
Who is affected?
- The majority of children (70 percent) and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 14 years ride bicycles (27.7 million).
- Children and adolescents ages 14 and under are five times more likely to sustain injuries in a bicycle-related crash than any other age group.
- Children and adolescents make up 24 percent of all bicycle-related deaths and over 50 percent of bicycle-related injuries.
- Any child or adolescent who rides without a bicycle helmet increases his/her risk of sustaining a head injury in a crash, and increases the risk of being involved in a fatal crash by 14 times.
- Males account for the majority of bicycle-related deaths (80 percent) and injuries (75 percent).
- No more than 41 percent of child and adolescent bicyclists use bicycle helmets, although statistics show the helmet can drastically reduce the risk of death and injury and the severity of injury. Bicycle helmets should also be used when riding scooters.
- Bicycle helmets can reduce the risk of a head injury by 85 percent and brain injury by 88 percent.
- Children and adolescents between the ages of 11 and 14 reportedly are least likely to use a bicycle helmet (11 percent).
- The majority of fatal bicycle crashes involving children and adolescents (75 percent) could have been prevented with bicycle helmets.