For Parents: Bicycle, In-Line Skating, Skateboard, and Scooter Safety
Safety statistics for bicycles, in-line skating, skateboards, and scooters
Over 70% of children between the ages of 5 and 14 ride bicycles. In-line skating and
skateboarding are also very popular among this age group. Although a great form of
exercise, riding a bike, in-line skating, or skateboarding without protective gear
can be dangerous. Next to motor vehicle-related injuries, bicycles injure more children
than any other consumer product, according to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign.
The most common (and often most serious) injury sustained with a bike, on in-line
skates, scooters, or while skateboarding, is a head injury. Head injuries are the
leading cause of death and disability in these types of crashes. Wearing a helmet
can reduce the risk of death or injury and reduce the severity of the injury in the
event of a crash. However, even with aggressive bicycle helmet programs and laws,
approximately 55% of children don't always wear a helmet while bicycling.
Wearing a helmet whenever riding a bicycle, in-line skates, or a skateboard should
be an automatic habit. Helmets should fit properly on your child's head and also be
fastened correctly. A properly-fastened and fitting helmet does not move around on
Teaching your children bicycle, in-line skating, and skateboarding safety could save
The importance of helmets
Bicycling is very popular--in fact, it is estimated that 80 million Americans ride
bikes of many different types. To participate in safe and enjoyable bicycling, cyclists
of all ages should follow safe riding habits. Children and adults should always wear
helmets when riding bicycles:
According to SAFE KIDS, bicycle helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head
injury by as much as 85%.
There has been a 54% reduction in the number of bike-related deaths since 1999.
Which helmet to purchase
Here are suggestions for purchasing a helmet:
Helmets should be approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Snell Foundation,
or the American Society for Testing and Materials.
The helmet should fit comfortably and snugly. It should sit on your (or your child's)
head in a level position and not rock from side to side.
The helmet should have a chin strap and buckle to keep the helmet in place.
The helmet should be made out of a hard outer shell and an absorbing liner at least
one-half inch thick.
Many children (and adults) resist wearing a helmet. Point out that athletes wear helmets
for their protection, and, for children, suggest ways the helmet could be decorated
to personalize it.
Protecting children and adults from bicycle injuries
Suggestions for preventing bicycle injuries:
You can't control a bicycle that is too large. You should be able to straddle the
bike and stand with both feet flat on the ground.
Younger children may need to ride a bicycle with training wheels.
A child must be able to stop the bike by using the brakes.
Learn the proper hand signals for left turns, right turns, and stopping. Make certain
you understand and observe all traffic signals and signs. Children who aren't yet
coordinated enough to use hand signals and still maintain control of their bike should
not ride in the street.
Children should ride on sidewalks until they are at least 10 or 11 years old.
Look left, right, and left again, before riding into traffic from a sidewalk, driveway,
or parking lot.
When riding on the street, children should be in a straight line near the curb, and
be alert for car doors opening into traffic lanes. Both children and adults should
ride with rather than against traffic.
Children should not ride a bike at dusk or at night as this is when most fatal accidents
happen. If a child is still outside when it turns dark, the bicycle light must be
turned on and the child should be wearing light or reflective clothing.
Make certain the bike has safety reflectors. All bikes should have reflectors on the
front, rear, and wheel spokes.
In-line skating is another popular sport on wheels for many people. Even experienced
in-line skaters can crash and sustain injuries. The following recommendations are
from the National Safety Council (NSC) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
Always wear protective gear, such as elbow and kneepads, gloves, helmets, and wrist
Buy durable skates with proper ankle support.
Always warm up your muscles before skating by skating slowly for 5 minutes or more.
Skate with knees slightly bent to maintain balance.
Practice stopping properly without losing balance.
Always skate on the right side of sidewalks and other paths.
Pass on the left and warn others that you are passing.
Don't skate in the street, especially where there is a lot of traffic.
Look for and avoid uneven pavement or other surface problems.
Check your skates regularly for wear and tear. Make sure the wheels are tightened.
Obey all traffic rules.
Skateboards are very popular among children ages 5 to 14. Skateboards should never
be used on surface streets. Even experienced skateboarders can fall, so learning how
to fall safely can help reduce the risk of severe injuries. The following are recommendations
from the NSC regarding how to fall correctly:
When losing your balance, crouch down on the skateboard so you have a shorter distance
Try to land on fleshy parts of your body when falling.
Try to roll as you fall, which prevents your arms from absorbing all the force.
Try to relax, rather than remaining stiff when falling.
Other safety precautions to take when skateboarding include the following:
Wear protective gear, such as helmets, padding for wrists, elbows and knees, and closed-toe
and slip-resistant shoes.
Frequently check the skateboard for wear and tear.
Only allow one person per skateboard.
Don't hang onto bicycles, cars, or other vehicles while skateboarding.
Carefully practice tricks in designated skateboarding areas.
Don't skateboard in the street.
Although scooters have been around since the 1950s, the popular new scooters are often
made of lightweight aluminum, weighing less than 10 pounds. They have quickly risen
in popularity and are the cause of more and more emergency room visits. Health officials
have seen a dramatic increase in scooter-related accidents and injuries. Most of the
injuries happen among boys under the age of 15. The most common injuries are fractures
or dislocations to the arm or hand, followed by cuts, bruises, strains, and sprains.
Almost half of all injuries tend to happen to the arm or hand, while about one-fourth
are to the head and another fourth to the leg or foot. Deaths directly related to
scooter accidents have also happened.
The CDC recommends the same precautions for scooters as for bicycling and in-line
skating. It is thought that many injuries might be prevented or reduced in severity
if protective equipment is worn. Helmets can prevent 85% of head injuries, elbow pads
can prevent 82% of elbow injuries, and knee pads can prevent 32% of knee injuries.
Although wrist guards are effective in preventing injuries among in-line skaters,
the protection they provide against injury for scooter riders is unknown, as wrist
guards may make it hard to grip the scooter handle and steer it.
Based on evidence of injury prevention effectiveness for other related activities,
the following recommendations may help to prevent scooter-related injuries:
Wear an approved helmet that meets safety standards.
Use knee and elbow pads.
Ride scooters on smooth, paved surfaces without traffic. Don't ride on streets and
surfaces with water, sand, gravel, or dirt.
Don't ride scooters at night.
Young children should not use scooters without close supervision.