Following the success of Team GB’s Bradley Wiggins at the Olympics last year, the UK saw a huge rise in the numbers of people taking to their bicycles for their commutes and for pleasure. Unfortunately, as the numbers of cyclists increased, so did the numbers of accidents. Although most cycle accidents end up being not too serious, the potential for injury is high and some have resulted in serious consequences and even fatalities.
Following this spike in cycling activity and associated accidents, The Times questioned whether cycle helmets should be made compulsory on Britain’s roads. As part of their investigation, the news agency cited a Department for Transport report, which showed that 10% of cyclists treated in hospitals following an accident had suffered, “injuries to a part of the head which a cycle helmet may have prevented”.
More worryingly, the report found that 10 – 16% of fatalities could have been avoided if the victim had been wearing a well fitted, good quality and good condition helmet.
The case for wearing a helmet is clear and when it comes to our children’s safety there really is no reason not to insist one is worn. Going cycling without a helmet risks everything from a mild concussion to serious Traumatic Brain Injury, which could change both their lives and their family’s lives forever.
Buying the right cycle helmet
Choosing and buying a helmet of the right size and quality is essential when looking to protect our children on the road. Sending them out with a poorly fitted or inappropriate helmet is as good as sending them out with nothing at all. In fact, in some cases, it could make the situation worse, as slippage can cause abrasions to the throat from the strap. Here are some key elements to look for when choosing a bike helmet for your child:
Fit: Fit should be snug but not so tight that it pinches. Once the strap is done up, the helmet should not move around when the head is shaken.
Shape: Everyone has an individual shape to their head and each manufacturer has a unique head shape they design to as well. This means it is important to take your child to the bike shop and try on all the helmets to see which design suits their head shape best.
Padding: Pads and lining are more about comfort and sweat absorption than anything else. Children’s helmets often come with a variety of pad sizes and thicknesses, so you can use these to make it as comfortable as possible for your child. However, these should not be a substitute for a well-fitting helmet.
Shell: The shell should be polystyrene, designed to absorb impact in the event of a crash.
Outer shell: The outer shell is usually hard plastic, designed to keep the polystyrene together in the event of a crash.
Ventilation: Ventilation is there to help your child’s head stay cool, even on a hot day. Good ventilation is more for comfort than safety, but is a nice addition when investing in a quality helmet.
Straps: The straps are designed to keep the helmet in place. They should be adjusted to be firm and so that the chin strap is fitted snugly around the ears. They should prevent the helmet from rotating and exposing the vulnerable forehead.
Colour: With a child’s cycle helmet, it is a good idea to consider visibility in low light when choosing a colour. If your child is set on a ‘cool’ black helmet, try to pick one with reflective stripes around it, a built in rear light, or even apply some reflective stickers yourself to improve visibility.