When I was young, my friends and I would ride our bikes as fast as we could down the street, through a narrow passageway and down a hill, faster and faster. I loved the feeling of wind blowing through my hair. It's a feeling my daughter will never have, and I will never have again (the wind part, not the riding bicycles). Why? Because we wear helmets when we ride bicycles. Both of us, every time.
Bicycle safety is something I believe in, and that includes helmets. My kids' pediatrician drills this safety rule into them at each visit and promises that, if he ever sees them on bikes without helmets, he'll stop his car, load up kids and bikes, and drive them home before he'll let them ride another foot without a safety helmet. It always surprises me, though, to see a family out for a bicycle ride with only the kids helmeted -- not the parents. Aren't the parents' heads just as worthy of protection? And what kind of message does that send to the kids?
Not just for kids and professionals
While many states mandate helmet use for kids aged 16 and under, adults -- people like you and me -- are not protected from the possibility of a bicycle accident because we are over 16. As bigger people, we fall farther and harder than our kids do! And just because it's not a law doesn't mean it's not a good idea; helmet use significantly reduces (but does not eliminate) the risk of head injury from a bicycle accident.
Statistics back up helmet use for everyone. For a relatively small investment, you can be on the right side of some serious statistics (according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute):
- Riders without helmets are 14 times more likely to be involved in a fatal bicycle accident than riders with helmets.
- 60 percent of deaths related to bicycle accidents are due to head injuries.
- Direct and indirect costs of bicyclists' injuries due to not using helmets have been estimated at more than $2 billion per year.
Use helmets correctly
When you do get that helmet, make sure you read the instructions for it and use it correctly. Helmets, used correctly, not only help protect your head -- they can help protect your face and forehead in a fall, too. This means that you absolutely have to get over vanity and realize your hairstyle is secondary to your safety. A helmet set back on your head so that it doesn't disturb the way your hair falls around your face is not protecting your head properly.
A gift to your child
Helmets for your children are a necessary piece of safety equipment. Helmets for you are a gift to your children: You are leading by example and showing you are taking every precaution to be there for them for their whole lives, and that you are not taking unnecessary risks.
Bicycle helmets do help save the lives of kids and adults alike. When you go out for that family bike ride, make sure everyone has an appropriate safety helmet.
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