Biking is a very popular activity, especially here in Vermont, and it is a great form of exercise. But without protective gear, it can be dangerous. According to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, bike injuries accounted for more than half of visits to the emergency room for those younger than 19.

The most common (and often most serious) injury sustained with bike riding is a head injury. Head injuries are the leading cause of death and disability in bike crashes. Wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of death or injury. It can also reduce the severity of the injury in a crash.

Wearing a helmet whenever riding a bike should be an automatic habit. Helmets should fit correctly and be fastened correctly. A correctly fastened and fitting helmet does not move around on the head. When bike helmets fit correctly and are used, they can lower the risk for head injury by at least 45%, but fewer than half of children aged 14 years or younger wear a helmet.

Here are some tips on how to pick 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 the head in a level position. It should not rock from side to side or front to back.

— The helmet should have a chin strap and buckle to keep the helmet in place. The helmet should always be buckled when worn.

— The helmet should be made from a hard outer shell and an absorbing liner at least ½-inch thick.

Choosing the right bike is also important and can protect you from bike injuries:

— Pick the right bike size. You cannot control a bike that is too large. You should be able to straddle the bike and stand with both feet flat on the ground.

— Introduce young children to biking by using training wheels.

— Stopping is key! A child must demonstrate they are able to stop the bike by using the brakes.

Learn the proper biking hand signals for left turns, right turns and stopping. Make sure you understand and observe all traffic signals and signs. Children who are not yet coordinated enough to use hand signals and still maintain control of their bike should not ride in the street.

— Anyone riding a bicycle should 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 single file, in a straight line near the curb. Both children and adults should ride with traffic, not against it.

— Children should not ride a bike at dusk or at night. 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.

— The bike must have safety reflectors. All bikes should have reflectors on the front, rear and wheel spokes.

This may seem like a lot to remember, but really it is just a lot of common sense. Biking is a healthy and fun activity most everyone can enjoy. Being safe while biking is the best way you can ensure you will arrive at your destination, if you have one, healthy and energized and ready for your next excursion.

Today’s Health Talk was submitted by Rutland Regional Medical Center.

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