For some, the end of summer and the start of beautiful fall weather means that kids are returning to school (and some not, unfortunately due to COVID). It also means that many kids will be biking to school. Biking to school for kids no doubt provides added exercise for the week – and not to mention kids getting to school quicker. But remember, it’s alwways important for kids to stay safe and stay en route. During school days in Ontario the streets can be busier in the morning and the journey to school can be quite crowded and when both kids and/or drivers do not pay attention, accidents can happen. The last thing you want as a parent is the call from a hospital or the school to advise you that your child has been seriously hurt. Bicycling accidents can be devastating and life changing, and no parent should have to watch their child suffer because someone else was negligent. Accidents can be avoided and preventative measures do help reduce the risk. Before you send your child to school on his or her bike, there are a few things about bike safety parents should know on how to prepare your kids for back to school season on a bike.
Remember – kids ALWAYS need to wear a helmet. Head and brain injuries are a common and serious injury that can occur with bicycling, and could happen to anyone at any age. One bad fall from a bicycle can result in a serious brain injury. Remember, TBI’s can be devastating and it’s better to not leave a life changing injury to chance. Teaching your children to always wear a helmet is a major way to keep them safe on the road or anywhere else they go for a ride. Statistics show that wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of severe head and brain injuries by approximately 63 to 88% in both high and low speed inpact. Make sure that the helmet is properly fitted to your child’s head and is CSA International-certified. If it helps, let your child pick out their own helmet so they will be more excited about wearing it at all times.
Needless to say – being distracted by a smart phone is the number one cause of accidents – and the distraction applies not only to motorists, but also to pedestrian and cyclists. The way kids are using mobile technology phones and apps is consistently evolving. Each year, more and more pedestrians and cyclists are injured as a result of texting, talking or listening to music while on their cell phones. Kids often have a difficult time not replying to that text, or instagram, facebook or snapchat message immediately. For kids, using a phone while cycling draws attention off the road, other cars, draws their eyes off the road and their hands off their handlebars.
A bicycle should always be the right size for its rider. This is a key component of bicycle safety. If the bicycle your child is riding is too big for them, it can be difficult for them to handle and pose a variety of hazards and cause them to end up in a bicycle accident. Likewise, if the bicycle is too small, your child may not be comfortable using it.
Make sure your child’s bicycle is the right size in order to keep them as safe as possible. You can do this by measuring the inseam of their leg against the diameter of the bicycle’s wheels. Their age and strength will also play a role in this decision, as every child has different requirements. Additionally, make sure the bicycle is always inspected and maintained before your child goes out on a bike ride, especially the wheels and brakes.
Bicyclists have to learn how to share the road with motor vehicles, and this means making sure the lines of communication are open. Teach your children how to use hand signals to let drivers know which direction they’re travelling. Signal a left turn by stretching the left arm all the way out. A right turn can either be signaled with the left arm bent up at the elbow in an “L” shape or with the right arm stretched out. If they are going to stop, they can signal by bending the left arm down at the elbow in an upside down “L” shape. It is never too early to start teaching children the right hand and turn signals for bicycling, and the earlier you teach them the more likely these signals will stick with them throughout their life.
All bicyclists, no matter their age, should always know and obey the rules of the road and the traffic signals they encounter. This is a major factor in keeping them safe from any potential collisions with motor vehicles. Teach your children the following road rules:
It’s always a great idea for you and your child to plan a route to and from school together so that you know where your child is and have a route mapped out in case of an emergency situation. Make sure the route is age appropriate and make sure to ride the route to yourself before your child starts school. Take note of obstacles such as crosswalks and whether or not there are crossing guards, dogs, traffic flow, or areas that don’t have very good visibility. Test the route yourself or with your child before school starts to ensure that the cycling journey to and from school will be safe.
The best way to enforce safety rules with your children is to make sure you are always following them while riding your bicycle with them. Always wear a helmet, use proper hand signals, and obey all of the rules of the road or path. You are your child’s role model, and it is important that you reinforce every safety rule with the right example. Children always echo what other people do, and as the parent you likely know this already. Make sure they see you practicing what you preach. If they have older siblings, make sure that those siblings also follow the rules to reinforce them to the younger children.
In addition to the above, teacher child to make eye contact with all motorists within his or her vicinity. Also, make sure that your child knows that it’s important to keep him or herself visible and as prominent as possible on the road or sidewalks. Trying dress your child and brighter colours, use a bell when approaching other pedestrians or kids walking to school and if possible, have your child cycled to school with other friends. The last thing that you want as a parent is a call from the school or hospital to advise you that your child has been involved in a serious bicycling accident. If you have any questions call our Hamilton Bicycling Accident Lawyer with any question. You can reach us nationwide at 1-844-LALANDE or local at 905-333-8888.
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