Selecting the Right Bike Helmet for Your Child

Your child’s first bike ride is a major milestone, especially when the training wheels come off. But before anyone flies solo or even swings a leg over the bars of that bike, the proper head gear must be in place. It is unlikely that you wore a bicycle helmet when you were a child. It wasn’t until 1987 that states and localities began adopting laws about children wearing bike helmets, and there is currently no federal law that requires them. While nothing can completely protect your child from suffering a concussion when they fall off their bike, a helmet can certainly help make a traumatic brain injury far less likely.

Understanding Bicycle Helmet Regulations

It’s important to know the different types of bike helmets that are available for children. Bicycle helmets are not one-size-fits-all. There are many different styles and brands on the market, and often your child will want a particular helmet because of its appearance – it’s up to you as the parent to ensure that the helmet is appropriate. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Helmets do help: The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute reports that bicycle helmets can prevent most bicyclist head injuries.
  • Helmets are affordable: You can certainly purchase a high-end bicycle helmet for your child, but it isn’t necessary. Most retail for around the $30 mark, and some can be purchased for less. Every helmet that’s sold in the United States has to meet the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standard and state as much on the helmet. In other words, impact performance is legally regulated, and this helps when you’re choosing a helmet based on price, fit, and – of course – style.
  • Fit is everything: Regardless of cost, the most important element of a child’s bicycle helmet is the fit. Take your child shopping for a helmet and test out the helmets in the store, or ask for assistance from a salesperson to ensure that the head gear is on properly and securely so it will actually protect your child. The helmet should sit level on your child’s head and be securely fitted with the strap fastened.
  • Outgrowing a helmet won’t happen too soon: Kids don’t outgrow bicycle helmets as often as they outgrow shoes, and you shouldn’t have to purchase a new helmet every summer. The foam pads that come with the helmets are often available in varying sizes so you can reduce the thickness of the foam as your child grows – changing the foam for proper fit will not compromise the effectiveness of the helmet.

There are other factors that can impact your child’s level of safety while riding a bicycle too:

  • Watch for cars: Bike collisions with cars are the most common bicycle accident, and three-quarters of the deaths that result from bike accidents are because of head injuries.
  • Set a good example: If you plan to bike right alongside your child, wear your helmet too so your child can see that everyone really does wear their helmets when biking, even grown-ups.
  • Use the helmet for other activities: If your child decides to ride his scooter, skateboard, or inline skates, the CPSC says that bicycle helmets work well for these activities.

A brain injury can alter your child for life. While it may seem that getting cuts and scrapes from bicycle wrecks are a rite of passage for all children, traumatic brain injuries are not. A concussion could lead your child to end up with an aggressive personality, recurring headaches, balance issues, difficulty concentrating, and far worse. Buy your child a helmet, and make sure he wears it every time he rides.

About: David Christensen is a personal injury attorney who specializes in traumatic brain injury cases. He is also the founder of Christensen Law which has offices located in Southfield, Michigan and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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