How to Pick the Best Bicycle Helmet for Your Child
Wearing a helmet can reduce your child’s risk of head injury by as much as 85%. Our pediatrician offers tips for choosing the best one — and for getting your pint-sized biker to wear it!
We all know to keep our kids safe on their bikes, they need to wear helmets. But do you have trouble enforcing this rule? And how do you know when your child really has the right helmet, with the right fit? Pediatrician Richard So, MD, has tips on both fronts to help you stock your parenting tool box.
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Young people seem especially prone to bicycle injuries. Children, age 5 and older, as well as young adults have the highest rates of bicycle-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control. They account for almost 60% of all bicycle-related injuries that end up in U.S. emergency departments.
Wearing a helmet can reduce your child’s risk of head injury by as much as 85%. Note that most injuries related to bicycle accidents involve a rider’s head and face, which makes a helmet vital for safety.
Here are some tips to encourage kids to wear helmets:
Look for the Consumer Product Safety Committee (CPSC) sticker inside the helmet. This label or sticker ensures that the helmet will provide a high level of protection in case of any impact.
The law requires that helmets manufactured after March 1999 meet the CPSC standard. The helmet also meets the standard if you see these labels: “ASTM,” “ANSI,” and “Snell” — voluntary safety standards in place before 1999.
“There’s evidence that protection from an inexpensive helmet is as good for impact protection as an expensive helmet,” Dr. So says.
The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute sent six helmet models to a U.S. test lab: Three helmets were $150+ and three were under $20. The impact test results, as well as performance, were virtually identical among all the helmets, regardless of price.
What seemed to set helmets apart in prices was an easier fit, more vents and choices of graphics. This is good news for parents who can choose a good price point without worrying about any sacrifices in safety.
If considering a used or hand-me-down helmet, never purchase or use a broken helmet or one that has any cracks. You also don’t want a helmet that has been in a crash.
Keep in mind that used or older helmets might have cracks you cannot see, and they might not meet current safety standards if manufactured before 1999.
Check for these things when your child puts on the bicycle helmet:
Another technique to check proper positioning is this: Your child should see the very edge of the helmet when she looks upward.
Another way to customize how a bicycle helmet fits is to consider the internal padding. Bicycle helmets are available in several different sizes and with different thicknesses of internal padding for a custom fit.
To get a snug fit, place the internal pads in areas where there is space between your child’s head and the helmet along the front, back, and/or sides of the helmet. You should position the pads evenly around the inside of the helmet.
If the helmet does not feel snug after adjusting the pads and when the straps are correctly buckled, try adjusting the pads again or try another helmet.
If you are still having trouble, ask a salesperson to help you. Keep in mind that a properly fitted, strapped in helmet will stay on your child’s head despite any degree of twisting or pulling.
Kids can also wear bicycle helmets when in-line skating or roller skating.
Skateboarders or skaters who perform tricks might want to look for helmets specifically designed for these activities and that meet safety standards for these sports. These helmets cover more of the head, especially the back of the head.