I don’t even know why helmets are a hot-button topic. I don’t know why there is any negotiation or question about why you shouldn’t wear one. In my opinion, it’s an across-the-board, no-questions-asked, you wear your helmet biking, skiing, snowboarding, and even sledding every. single. time. But, I know there are people out there that disagree and think I am
- being overly cautious
- am promoting something that doesn’t really work anyway
- opening the door for people to be MORE reckless just because they think they are invincible with a helmet on
I beg to differ.
While technically, kids’ necks cannot fully support a helmet until they are about a year old, our kids know that without exception they will not be allowed to bike, ski, or sled without one on their head after they reach that age. In fact, we taught our kids almost too well – they are the self-proclaimed helmet police and quickly notice AND point out anyone not wearing theirs. Which has turned into a few embarrassing situations. But, I’ll take that over my kids fighting wearing helmets at all.
I get questions all the time about how to get kids to be good about wearing helmets. While every kid is certainly different, my best advice is that you just don’t teach them any different. From the very first time they are on skis or on a bike, they wear it. The two go hand-in-hand. Have a stubborn kiddo? Me too (actually, me three). Believe me, I feel your pain. Let them jazz it up so they think it is fun. Add stickers or covers or whatever it takes. There are lots of companies out there now working very hard to make helmets attractive, if not completely obnoxious, for kids.
The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (BHSI) has some fabulous information about children specifically. I especially loved this article about how children see traffic (and the dangers of it) differently than adults (it’s definitely an eye-opener!) If you want a real “scare” that will send you out to get your child a helmet right away, check out these child statistics (also over at BHSI). A few I thought were worth sharing (taken directly from their site):
“Ninety-one percent of bicyclists killed in 2009 reportedly weren’t wearing helmets.” (from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
“Bike accidents crash-land more kids in hospital emergency rooms than any other sport. In fact, kids aged 5 to 14 get hurt more often than bikers of any other age! Every day, about 1,000 kids end up in hospital emergency rooms with injuries from bikes – like broken bones or brain concussions. About one kid every day dies of these injuries. Others suffer lifetime problems, like limping or brain damage.” (from the US Consumer Product Safety Commision, 2008)
Also on that site is significant research that proves that helmets DO make a difference. Among other stats, they found that “riders with helmets had an 85% reduction in their risk of head injury.” Will a helmet save you from a concussion? Actually probably not. However, there is a VERY good chance it will save your life.
The Brave Ski Mom has a great post all about sking/riding helmet safety tips for kids. And YES – there is a difference between a bike and a ski helmet. They are made for different uses and should be treated as such. Some companies are making hybrid ones now, so you can use them for both sports.
The point is NOT to scare you into never letting your child ride a bike or ski (because that is not AT ALL what we want,) but rather to encourage helmet use. Every time they ride/ski/board.
Better yet, “monkey see, monkey do” – Wear YOUR helmet too. Every time you ride.
Finally, it is also very crucial to point out the importance of a well-fitting helmet. A helmet should sit level on a child’s (or your) head and be snug when clasped. You shouldn’t be able to fit two fingers under the helmet and it shouldn’t move around if you shake your head. Two Wheeling Tots has a great article on what to look for in a bike helmet.
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