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Adhering to safety practices cuts bicycle injury, death risks

By Sun Advocate

School has concluded and children are participating in outdoor activities, including bicycle riding.
Youth love to ride bikes and adults expect children to incur bumps and bruises when participating in the recreational activity.
But young bicyclists risk serious injury or even death if they do not learn and practice proper safety measures.
Bicycles are associated with more childhood injuries than any other consumer product except automobiles, according to the national Safe Kids campaign.
In fact, the fatality rate for young bicyclists ages 5 to 18 years old registered nearly twice the rate for all bicyclists in 1999.
In addition, the injury rate for youth was more than twice as high, indicate nationwide data compiled by the United States Department of Transportation.
The first and most important step in bicycle safety is wearing a helmet.
Head injury is the leading cause of death and permanent disability in bicycle crashes.
Research has shown that helmets can reduce the risk of serious head and brain injury in all types of bicycle incidents by as much as 88 percent.
Cyclists who wear helmets are 14 times less likely to be involved in a fatal crash than riders who do not wear the safety devices.
It is important to choose a helmet carefully and to make sure it fits properly.
Look for a label or sticker that confirms that the helmet has been tested and meets the federal safety standards issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Select a brand and size that fits well prior to adjustments. When selecting a helmet for a child, buy one that fits now, not one to grow into.
Most helmets come with adjustable sizing pads to help ensure a better fit.
A properly adjusted bicycle helmet fits comfortably and securely. It should be worn level on the head, not tilted back on the crown or pulled low on the forehead.
Once the helmet is adjusted, safety head gear should not be able to move more than an inch in any direction.
Getting a proper helmet fit takes time. Adults should complete the process when children are relaxed and before youth are ready to go outside to ride.
Selecting a bicycle that fits the child is just as important as using a helmet.
In fact, many accidents occur because children cannot control the bicycles they are riding because the bikes are too large.
A safe bicycle is one that is the right size for the child to ride and handle safely.
Many parents tend to look for bicycles that will accommodate youth as child will grow into. But the wrong size bike, especially one that is too large, may cause the child to lose control and be injured.
The following tests will insure that a bike is the proper fit.
•Sitting on the seat with hands on the handlebar, the child must be able to place the balls of both feet on the ground.
•Straddling the center bar, the child should be able to keep both feet flat on the ground with about a one inch clearance between the crotch and the bar.
•When buying a bike with hand brakes for an older child, make sure that the child can comfortably grasp the brakes and apply sufficient pressure to stop the bike.
Maintaining the bicycle in good condition is another important safety step. A bike may continue to run smoothly if the tires, chain, and wheels are properly cared for. To ensure that a bike is in a proper working condition, the following steps may be taken.
•Check tires frequently to make sure there are no cuts, bulges, bubbles or worn spots where the inner lining can be seen.
•Keep the air pressure within the recommended range printed on the side of the tire.
•Keep the chain well oiled. A dry chain can lock up or break suddenly, causing the rider to lose control.
•Lift and spin the wheels. Make sure wheels do not rub against brake pads, frame or anything else.
Bicycle riders must be aware of the traffic dangers that they face. Because bicycles share the road with cars and other vehicles, cyclists must obey the same rules as motorists. Be sure to know the local traffic laws, and teach them to children.
Often times children neglect the road rules and find themselves riding across busy roadways. When riding on the road, bicyclists must always ride in single file in the same direction as other traffic. Be sure to signal when turning using proper hand gestures. Also communicate with other motorists by making eye contact. Riders must also check for oncoming traffic before entering a road from a driveway, alley, bike path or side street.
Cyclists should remains alert. A bicycle is the smallest vehicle on the road and motorists are not always considerate. Ride carefully and watch for cars and other vehicles as well as for pedestrians, railroad tracks, construction zones, or disturbances in the road such as potholes, cracks, expansion joints, wet leaves,or drainage grates that could cause the rider to lose control of the bike.
Headphones make it difficult to hear traffic and should not be worn when riding.
By taking simple precautions, bicycle riders will find that riding will be enjoyable and safe. Helmets are the main focus to preventing serious injury and should be worn at all times while bicycling. Parents can set an example by wearing safety gear.

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