Pedaling to Safety

Parents have been pedaling lots of questions at me about bicycle safety. Well let me see if I can gear up and answer some of those questions. Every year, more than 1,000 people die in bike accidents. Half of those are children under age 15, and over one million children go to emergency rooms yearly for bike-related accidents. If you dont want your child to be a bicycle injury statistic, here are a few suggestions: Make sure your childs bike is the appropriate size for him or her. Dont buy a bike that is too big expecting your child to grow into it, because they could lose control of it and get hurt. A bike is sized appropriately when your child can sit on the seat with feet flat on the ground and the handlebar no higher than the shoulders. Next, make sure you have the right equipment, beginning with a properly-fitted helmet that meets standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. A helmet should sit level and not tilt forward or backward. It should not be worn on top of a baseball cap or other hat. The straps should fit snugly under the chin and be no looser than a fingers width beneath the strap when fastened correctly. Also, kids should wear fluorescent, or at least bright-colored, clothing to help others see them on the road. A well-maintained bike is a safe bike, so make sure your childs bike is tuned up at least once a season with tires inflated, chains oiled and cleaned, handlebar and seat adjusted for height, and brake pads checked for wear and tear. Kids need to learn the rules of the road before they go off riding without you. These rules include riding with the traffic; stopping to look both ways before entering the street; stopping at all intersections; and using proper hand signals before turning and look all ways. The name of the game is to see and be seen. Night riding should be prohibited, even at dusk, since that is when most accidents occur due to poor visibility of the rider. Hopefully, tips like this will put the brakes on any concerns you have when it comes to keeping your child safe on a bicycle this summer. Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and on WCAX-TV Channel 3. Visit the First with Kids archives at www.vermontchildrens.org.

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