Bicycle Safety

Kids and Bike Helmets: The Right Fit

Kids should always wear helmets while biking

Bike helmets  are not optional equipment. A helmet is your last line of defense in an accident - never ride without one!

Helmets have been shown in studies to reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by 90 percent. Nationally, only 15 percent of children bicyclists used bicycle helmets. Here are some points to consider when fitting a bike helmet on a child:

  • The helmet should sit on the child's head so that the front rim is just above the eyebrows. Use the two finger rule - leave about two fingers width between your eyebrows and the front of the helmet. If the helmet rests on the back of the head, the forehead, nose and chin will be exposed.
  • Before buckling the chin strap, have children shake their head from side to side. The helmet should generally stay put. If it moves excessively, it's too big and won't protect the head no matter how tight the chin strap is pulled. The straps should be joined just under each ear at the jawbone.
  • When the chin strap is buckled, children should be able to open their mouth and feel the helmet press firmly against the top of their head.
  • Buy a new helmet. Helmets that have suffered even a single fall or have been exposed to heat for a long time (i.e., kept in the trunk of a car) lose the cohesion that keeps the helmet intact during impact.
  • Don't forget to set an example by wearing a helmet yourself!

Bike Safety and Bike Helmets

Maryland: State law requires all riders under 16 years of age to wear a helmet when on a bicycle. In addition to bicycles, all youth under 16 are also required to wear a helmet when on scooters, skateboards, and inline skates. Montgomery County requires all riders under 18 years of age to wear a helmet when on a bicycle. Sykesville requires a helmet for riders of all ages.  (More information on the law click here)

Your child is 14 times more likely to survive a bike crash if he/she is wearing a helmet. Each year in the United States, approximately 250 children die in bicycle-related accidents, and about half a million are injured in bicycling accidents. Although it's estimated that 75% of the serious injuries could have been avoided if a helmet was worn, only about 20% of children in the United States wear a helmet.

How to properly wear a bike helmet

Get the Helmet to Fit Right

Step 1: Make sure the helmet fits firmly.
Helmets are sold with foam pads that differ in thickness to make the helmet fit firmly. Use the foam pads by attaching them to the inside of the helmet until the helmet fits firmly on your child's head. The helmet should not move around when shaken.
Step 2: Make sure the helmet sits level on the child's head.
This means the helmet should cover the top of the forehead, just above the eyebrows. Wearing the helmet too far back is a common mistake. You should be able to place just two fingers between the eyebrows and the front of the helmet. Take off anything that could change the way a helmet fits (baseball caps, big hair clips, headphones, etc.).
Step 3: Position the straps correctly.
All straps should be snug but still comfortable. Fix the side straps so that they fit around your child's ear in a V-shape. Adjust the buckles or slides on the side strap so that they are right under theear. Tighten the chin strap until you can fit just one finger between the strap and your child's chin.
Check the fit of the helmet every time. Use the 2-V-1 finger test. Teach your child to do this test each time he gets ready to ride:
  • Two fingers above the eyebrows
  • V-Shape under each ear
  • One finger under the chin strap
  • Make sure that the helmet has a label to say that it meets safety standards, such as CSA, CPSC, ASTM, or Snell.

After taking a serious hit, helmets lose their capacity to absorb shock. They're designed that way so that the inner foam structure is altered by a very hard blow. If your child ever has a significant fall or hits any surface hard with the helmet, immediately replace the helmet. Don't Negotiate. It is estimated that 75% of bicycle-related deaths among children could be prevented with a bicycle helmet. Wearing one should never be optional for your child.