Injury Research and Policy Bicycle Helmet Research :: Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio

Bicycle Helmets

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Riding bicycles is a great way for families to have fun and spend time together outside. However, riding a bicycle can also be dangerous. Every year, thousands of children are injured in bicycle crashes. The good news is that many serious injuries can be prevented by wearing a helmet. Before your kids take off on their bicycles this summer, make sure they have a helmet that fits them. It will protect their heads and could save their lives.

How to Ride Safely

  • Ride with traffic, not against it. Stay to the right.
  • Follow all traffic signs. Stop at red lights and stop signs.
  • Walk the bicycle across busy streets. Look left, right, and left again before crossing.
  • Do not ride at dusk or after dark.
  • Children younger than 1 year of age should not be on bicycles. Their neck muscles may not be strong enough to control their heads during a sudden stop, especially with the added weight of a helmet.
  • Children younger than 10 should ride on a sidewalk or bicycle path instead of the street. Most young children are not able to make safe choices in traffic.
  • Make sure the seat and handlebars of the bicycle fit your child.
  • Know a child’s limits. Tell your child where and when he can ride.
  • The most important step you can take to prevent bicycle-related brain injuries is to buy your child a helmet and make sure he wears it every time he rides!

Why are Helmets Important?

  • Every year in the U.S., almost 400,000 children visit the emergency department with bicycle-related injuries.

  • The most common injuries are bruises, cuts and broken bones, but the most serious are head injuries.

  • 9 out of 10 bicycle riders who die in crashes are not wearing helmets.

  • Wearing a bicycle helmet can lower the risk of brain injury by up to 88 percent.

Where Can I Get a Helmet?

  • Helmets cost as little as $10 and can be found at retail stores.

Some community programs offer free or discounted helmets for families who cannot afford one.

How Do I Pick the Right Helmet?

  • Let your child help pick out a helmet that he or she likes. Choose a bright color to help drivers see your child.
  • Look for the CPSC Certified label on the box.
  • Try the helmet on your child. It should be snug, but not tight.
  • If your child is between 2 sizes, pick the bigger one. Most helmets come with extra pads to help you get a good fit.
  • If it feels too tight, try using thinner pads. If it is still too tight, buy a larger helmet.  
  • The helmet should not move from side to side when your child shakes his head.
  • Replace any helmet that is damaged or that has been involved in a crash.

How Do I Fit the Helmet Correctly? 

  • The helmet should sit flat on top the head and rest 1 or 2 finger-widths above the eyebrows. The forehead must be covered.
  • The straps should form a “V” below your child’s ear.
  • The chin strap should be buckled snugly under the jaw. No more than 1 or 2 fingers should fit under the strap.

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