By the HELP Committee
and Havre Public Schools
Spring is on its way and that means that soon kids will be getting their bikes out and getting ready to ride. This is a good time to review some basic bike safety with your child. It's also time to make sure that they have the most important safety feature - a good helmet.
Kids, especially 11- to 14-year-olds, are sometimes reluctant to wear helmets. They may insist they're good riders who don't need helmets anymore, complain that helmets are uncomfortable, or - an old favorite - point out that none of their friends wear them. Your child may be especially mature for her age, she may be a particularly skilled rider, or it just might feel easier to give in. But resist that temptation. Requiring your children to wear helmets every time, everywhere they go, is the best thing you can do to protect them.
If your child rides a bike, then she probably also enjoys skateboards, scooters or inline skates. Make sure that whenever she wheels around, she's wearing the right gear.
Don't negotiate. It's estimated that 75 percent of bicycle-related deaths among children could be prevented with a bicycle helmet.
Buy a helmet that meets or exceeds safety standards developed by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Correct fit is essential. Do the "Eyes, Ears and Mouth" check:
Eyes check: Position the helmet on your head. Look up and you should see the bottom rim of the helmet (one to two fingers above the eyebrows).
Ears check: Make sure the straps of the helmet form a V under your ears when buckled. The strap should be snug but comfortable.
Mouth check: Now open your mouth as wide as you can. Do you feel the helmet hug your head? If not, tighten those straps.
If your child is reluctant to wear her helmet, try letting her choose her own. Helmets come in many colors and styles. Allowing children to choose a helmet that's "cool" may make them less likely to take it off when you're not around.
Talk to other parents and encourage them to have their kids wear helmets. Let your children see that you wear a helmet, too. Children are more likely to wear helmets when riding with others who wear them.
Practice bike safety
Cyclists should be restricted to sidewalks and paths until they reach the age of 10 and can demonstrate they know the rules of the road. Supervision is essential until children develop the necessary traffic skills and judgment.
Make sure your bike has a light and reflectors on the front, back and sides.
Teach your children
A bicycle is a vehicle, not a toy. Riding a bike - especially around traffic - is an important responsibility.
Ride with traffic, not against it. Ride as far to the right as possible.
Use appropriate hand signals.
Respect traffic signals. Stop at all stop signs and red lights.
Stop and look left, right and left again before entering a street.
Look back and yield to traffic coming from behind before turning left at intersections.
Don't ride when it's dark. If riding at dusk, dawn or in the evening is unavoidable, wear reflective material on clothing or bike, and use lights on the bike.
Finally, proper bike fit and maintenance can help prevent injuries. Your child's feet should reach the ground while she's sitting on the bike seat. Make sure the reflectors are secure, brakes work properly, gears shift smoothly, and tires are tightly secured and properly inflated.
For more information about these and other safe summer tips, contact the HELP Committee and Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line at 265-6206.