As a personal injury attorney practicing in the Baltimore area and representing residents of Maryland injured in bicycle accidents around the state, I have a detailed understanding of how an auto-bike crash can change the course of a person’s life. Whether it is a youngster riding a new bicycle around his or her neighborhood, or a teenager going to class at a local junior or senior high school, accidents can occur anywhere cars and kids on bikes meet.
Safety starts at home and parents can do much to instill in their children the correct and safe way to operate their bikes on public roads. Bicycle riding can be a pleasant way to commute and has always been a rite of passage for kids getting their first two-wheeler. But with this enhanced mobility comes added responsibility, both for the parents and the kids.
For most children, riding a bicycle throughout their neighborhood or to get to school can result in many wonderful childhood memories. But sadly, every year hundreds of kids are either killed or seriously injured in automobile-bicycle accidents. Making sure that your child does not become part of this tragic statistic is every mother and father’s goal. Here are a few tips on teaching kids about bicycle safety:
1) Be aware of your surroundings. One of the most important things you can teach your children is to understand the local traffic environment. This is especially important because kids usually haven’t honed their powers of observation by the age they get their first bike.
As a parent or guardian, you should try to teach your child to carefully observe their environment. This is critical to all other safety tips you give them for riding their bike near motor vehicle traffic. Insist that they keep their eyes and ears open at all times while riding a bicycle, even if it’s right in front of their own home in a quiet neighborhood.
2) Wear that helmet. While you can teach kids everything they need to know about safe riding, accidents can and do still happen, even to the best prepared riders. In such cases, it is very important that your child have as much protection as possible in the event of a crash. Wearing a properly fitted and right-sized helmet can make the difference between a minor accident with just bruises and scratches and a potentially life-threatening crash.
3) Stay in control. Keeping control of their bicycle at all times is one key to safe riding. Besides the usual admonitions, such as always holding the handlebars with both hands, remind your kids to keep any items they are carrying in a secure container. The less distraction and loose articles the child has to deal with, the better their chances of keeping in control and avoiding a foolish accident.
4) Avoid riding their bicycle at night. Even with proper lighting and reflective markers on the bike and clothing, young children present a very small profile and can be extrememly difficult for motorists to see on the road. The best rule for kids is stay off your bike and off the road after dusk.
5) Avoid high-traffic areas. The more motor vehicle in an area, the more danger any bicycle rider is likely to experience. For young children especially, it is important to limit their bicycle riding to the most quiet parts of your neighborhood and roads least-traveled by cars and trucks between your home, school and friends’ houses.