Question: My child begins school this fall and wants to ride his bike. What safety precautions should I consider before allowing this?
Answer: The single biggest thing you can do to help prevent your child from being injured while riding his bicycle is to make him wear a helmet. But you should ensure the helmet actually fits properly.
Use the Eyes, Ears and Mouth check:
Eyes - Wearing the helmet, have your son look up, and he should see the bottom rim of the helmet. The rim should be one to two finger-widths above the eyebrows.
Ears - Make sure the straps of the helmet form a "V" under his ears when buckled. The straps should be snug but comfortable.
Mouth - Have your child open his mouth as wide as he can. Then make sure the helmet feels snug around his head. If not, tighten those straps a bit, making sure the buckle is against the skin.
Make sure the bicycle is in proper working order. Here are a few tips:
Right bike - Standing over his bike, there should be 1 to 2 inches between your child and the top bar on a road bike, 3 to 4 inches if it's a mountain bike.
Seat safety - The seat height should allow a slight bend of the knee when the leg is fully extended.
Handlebars - The handlebars should be at the same level as the seat.
Tires - Check the tire pressure, according to the listing on the tire. Make sure the wheels are fastened securely to the bike.
Safety gear - Reflectors in various locations should be seen from the front, sides and rear. Check the brakes, gear shifter and lights to ensure safe riding. Don't forget bright-colored clothing or a safety vest for increased visibility to motorists.
Finally, make sure your child knows the basic rules of the road:
? Go with the traffic flow. Ride on the same side of the road as traffic.
? Obey traffic laws, including signs, signals and lane markings.
? Yield to traffic and pedestrians and stop for other traffic or pedestrians in crosswalks.
? Be predictable. Avoid erratic riding while on roads
? Look before turning and signal before turns.
? Watch for parked cars. Stay clear of parked cars on roads, but watch for traffic from behind.
Another piece of advice is to model the appropriate behavior to your son. Make sure that you wear a helmet, check your bike and follow the rules of the road.