This past weekend, I was driving out of my own neighborhood when I realized I forgot my wallet. In the process of turning my car around, my head turned at the exact moment to witness a young child on a bike collide with a moving car just down the street. The child was thrown into the air before crashing onto the ground. It took my brain a second to process the freakish nature of the accident I just witnessed as I pulled over and yelled to my kids to “stay in the car.” Fortunately, I had been at the hospital all morning so my medical bag was still sitting on the passenger seat. As I arrived on the scene, one thing became glaring obvious. A terrible situation would have been tragic had it not been for one saving item: the child’s helmet.

Helmets save lives. Did you know that helmets prevent 88% of serious brain injuries? (Source: The American Academy of Pediatrics) Despite knowing that it’s the right thing to do, people simply don’t do it. Take for example, California, where they have a bike helmet mandate. In 2013, only 11% of all the children involved in bike accidents requiring medical treatment were wearing a helmet.

Introduce helmets a young age (greater than 1 year). When you buy your child’s first trike, buy a helmet. Introduce them together, so your child associates riding with wearing the helmet.  FYI, there are really small helmets (they are usually made of a soft shell material that is lighter weight). Make wearing a helmet it a habit.

THE RULE: If you ride it outside, wear a helmet (except cars)

Wear helmets with:

  • Bikes
  • Trikes
  • Motorcycles
  • Four Wheelers/ATVs
  • Mopeds
  • Scooters
  • Roller skates
  • Rollerblades
  • Skateboards
  • Hoverboards
  • Go carts
  • Dirt bikes
  • Horse Back Riding
  • Bicycle-towed child trailers (FYI, your kid is supposed to be a year before riding in these)
  • Sledding (Yep, remember those winter sports)
  • Skiing
  • Snow boarding

How to get a good fit

  1. Position the helmet so it sits low on the forehead (not tipped back). It should be parallel to the ground when the head is upright (the child should be able to see the lower brim when looking all the way up).
  2. Adjust the chin strap so it is snug (tight enough that only 2 fingers can fit between the strap and the chin). You know it is tight enough if you have your child shake his/her head and the helmet doesn’t come off or move over his/her eyes.

Replace the helmet if…

  1. It has been involved in a crash that leaves any marks on the shell. The integrity of the helmet may be compromised.
  2. It is over 5 years old, because the materials start to deteriorate with age.

For these reasons, don’t buy a used helmet. You can’t be sure of how old it is or whether it has been in a crash. It’s one thing to just spend money on a new one. It’s a great investment.

Be a good example

Studies show that kids wear helmets when their parents do. So put on your helmet.

Please, please, please…

I’m begging you to buy all of your children helmets. They are relatively cheap (typically $12-$40). Then insist that your kids wear them ALL the time. Take your kids’ bikes away if you catch the kids riding bikes without helmets. Send them the clear message that you mean business. After a while, it will become a habit. It takes 5 seconds to put on a helmet. Those 5 seconds could save their lives. It did this past weekend.

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About The Author

Dr. Monica Wonnacott

I'm a pediatrician and a mom. I've been doing this doctor thing for 10 years, and love it. I'm known for giving parents the straight scoop without always sugar-coating it. And I believe in educating parents. The more you know, the better care you give your kids.

Dr. Monica Wonnacott, Pediatric Answers ™

I'm a pediatrician and a mom. Pediatric AnswersTM is where parents can get the straight scoop on their child's health, largely based on my experience in the office and at home. I don't diagnose on the site, so please don't ask. These are just my opinions. Use this site as a resource. And trust your parent gut.

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