While your child’s opposition to wearing a helmet may be temporary, the brain damage that he or she may suffer from the failure to wear a helmet may be permanent. Statistics show that wearing a helmet while biking, skating or doing other activities reduces the risk of serious head and brain injury by 85%. For this reason, twenty-one states have laws requiring young riders to wear helmets at all times. Regardless of your state’s helmet law, however, the personal injury lawyers at Decof, Barry, Mega & Quinn, P.C. offer the following safety advice for parents and guardians regarding helmet use for children:
- Always wear a helmet when bicycling. Children ages five to fourteen have the highest injury rate of all bicycle riders. Moreover, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute, 720 people died from bicycle-related accidents in the United States in 2014; 60% of those killed were not wearing a helmet. Children are especially vulnerable to head injuries because their coordination is not yet fully developed. Whether your child is riding around the neighborhood or merely pedaling in the driveway, a helmet may save his or her life.
- Be aware of the need for a helmet for other activities. Children should wear helmets for all activities during which their heads are vulnerable to injury. In addition to bicycling, such activities include – but are not limited to – rollerblading, skateboarding, scootering and skiing. Furthermore, children younger than one year of age should not be taken on bike rides because their neck muscles may not be strong enough to support the weight of a helmet.
- Helmets are sport-specific. Different helmets should be used for different activities (i.e. bicycling, skiing, skateboarding, etc.). Your child should use the appropriate helmet for the particular activity that he or she enjoys because different helmets offer different types of protection. For example, do not supply your child with a ski helmet for a bike ride.
- Choose the right fit. Take your child with you to pick out his or her helmet. The helmet must snugly fit your child’s head in order to offer effective protection. Conversely, a helmet that fits too loosely – or too tightly – may create risk if the helmet impairs your child’s ability to function or moves out of position. Have your child try on a number of helmets and keep in mind that many helmets contain adjustable fitting rings.
- When to replace a helmet. Replace your child’s helmet after it has endured a single collision. Helmets are designed to help protect the rider’s brain from one serious impact. Although a helmet may appear to still be intact after one collision, the foam materials within the helmet will have condensed and will not offer the same level of protection to the brain in the event of a second impact.
- Show your child that helmets are “cool!” Children commonly complain that helmets are not “cool.” Leading by example – wearing a helmet yourself while bicycling or doing other activities – may help to combat your child’s helmet stigma. Moreover, pick a helmet that your child finds aesthetically pleasing; nowadays, there is a variety of different styles available for kids to choose from.