By Rasheba Jones
School is out, summer is in and more bikes are out on the road. Biking is a fun summer activity to get your kids out of the house while they are on break from school, but it is important that they are aware of bike safety laws before they hit the streets.
It is best to start with setting ground rules for your children the moment they begin riding. For example, no playing in the road, stop for all stop signs and always wear a helmet. But making sure that your kiddos know the rules and making sure that they actually follow them is a whole different ball game. Take helmets, for example. Although most kids know that they should wear one, they are reluctant to actually put it on before heading out with friends.
Explain to your child the importance of wearing a helmet. Beyond it being against the law to ride without a helmet if you are under the age of 16, 75 percent of bicycle-related deaths are due to head injuries, according to Active Living Resource Center. Be sure to get a properly sized helmet, and find one that matches your child’s style so that she is more willing to wear it.
“Don’t buy a little boys helmet for a girl, or if the little girl wants to wear a boy’s helmet, let her,” John Adler, Alachua County Fire Marshal, said.
Once your child’s helmet is securely buckled, it is time to go over the rules of the road for bicyclists.
LANES + SIGNALS
Even though there are special bike lanes on some roads, bikes are considered motor vehicles, and bicyclists do have to follow all proper traffic laws, said Adler. Bikers have to stop at stop signs and signal to drivers when making turns. Of course, bikes don’t have the handy blinkers and brake lights that cars do, so it is important that you teach your children the appropriate hand signals to make when turning or stopping to prevent accidents.
Utilize bike turn signals so other bicyclists and motor vehicles around you know how to react. Doing something unexpected can definitely cause an accident.
Your kiddo should also learn to get comfortable with riding in the bike lanes. Avoid riding down busy roads with your little ones, particularly if they are biking without adult supervision. Be sure to teach your kids to ride with the flow of traffic. It is a common misconception that bikers should ride facing traffic, but it is actually easier for cars to spot bikers when they are where they are supposed to be.
Teaching your little one the ground rules of riding a bike is important, but demonstrating this behavior while riding your bike is even more important. Remember that children will mimic what their parents do, so if you do not stop at stop signs, your child will mimic your behavior.
THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF CRASHES AND HOW TO PREVENT THEM
The most common type of bike crash among children occurs when riding out from the driveway. This can be due to distractors such as bushes or trees blocking the child’s view, so it is important to teach children to stop and look both ways twice before entering the roadway.
The cause of the second most common bike crash type is running stop signs. When teaching your child to ride a bike, emphasize the importance of following general traffic rules. If your child ever feels overwhelmed when crossing a road with traffic, teach her that it is OK to get off her bike and use the crosswalk to walk it across to the other side of the street.
The third most common crash is not looking left when making a turn. Aside from signaling that she is going to make a left turn, teach your child to look back to verify that the vehicles behind her got the signal. If your child is uncertain that the motorist received the signal, then she should walk her bike across the street.
SET BOUNDARIES AND MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD KNOWS THEM
Before your child takes off on her next bike adventure, be sure she knows how far from home she is allowed to travel without adult supervision. For instance, depending on her age and skill level, you may require that she stay in your neighborhood or avoid busy streets.
Whether to allow your child to ride at night is a decision you will have to make based on how responsible she is, her age and her riding ability. If your child does go out at night, she should wear bright clothing to be seen by other vehicles. The law also requires that her bike be equipped lights, specifically a white front light, a red rear light and a red rear reflector, which must be turned on when riding between sunset and sunrise.
While bike riding is a healthy activity to keep kids occupied this summer, be sure that they are prepared with the correct equipment and knowledge to make safe decisions while on the road.