Nearly 20 percent of children aren't wearing helmets while riding a bike

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Researchers warn there is an increased risk for serious injury

Helmets are a surefire way to stay safe while riding a bike or scooter, but a new study shows that a good number of parents are lenient when it comes to their children wearing the protective gear.

Researchers from Michigan Medicine at the University of Michigan consulted a national poll that revealed nearly 20 percent of parents don’t require their children to wear helmets while riding their bikes.

“Helmets are vital to preventing head injuries in case a child falls or gets struck by a car,” said Dr. Gary Freed. “It is very concerning that so many children ride bikes and other non-motorized wheeled vehicles without ever using helmets.”

Safety first

To get an understanding of how parents handle safety measures when their children are riding bikes or scooters, the researchers evaluated over 1,300 responses from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

All of the parents who responded to the survey had at least one child between the ages of four and 13, and they were asked questions about their children’s safety habits when they play outside.

The lack of helmet-wearing was particularly concerning to researchers, as 18 percent of parents reported that their children don’t wear helmets while riding bikes. However, those numbers increased dramatically with both scooters and skateboards, as the survey revealed that over 60 percent of children aren’t wearing helmets while riding scooters and 58 percent of children on skateboards skip helmets.

Many parents noted that their families don’t have hard and fast rules when it comes to wearing a helmet, though younger children are more likely to don one than their older siblings.

Though over 70 percent of parents said that their children typically ride their bikes on the sidewalk or bike paths, over 40 percent of children opt for riding in the street over bike lanes. However, many parents did note that older children tend to take more risks about where they ride, while younger children stay on the sidewalk.

“Unfortunately, a substantial number of parents polled reported that their children do not consistently follow basic safety strategies on wheels,” Dr. Freed said. “Our report suggests that families should take more precautions to ensure children are safe, including wearing helmets and understanding safety in the streets.”

On a positive note, over 90 percent of parents reported that their children give cars the right of way, and over 80 percent stop their bikes at stop signs.

“With summer around the corner, bikes, skateboards, and scooters will be a fun way for kids to play outside and get exercise,” said Dr. Freed. “We encourage parents to talk to their children about safety rules and expectations ahead of time to make sure these outdoor activities are both safe and fun.”

Staying out of the emergency room

In 2017, Safe Kids Worldwide and Nationwide Insurance conducted a similar study, and though at that time the number of children not wearing helmets was nearly double what it is now, the researchers were focused on keeping children safe and out of the emergency room.

The study revealed that 426,000 children go to the emergency room because of accidents and injuries related to bike or scooter riding. If more children were wearing helmets, the experts said that number would be reduced dramatically.

"We know that kids follow their parents' lead, and if they see their parents wearing their helmets, it's much more likely they'll do so as well," said Torine Creppy, Interim President at Safe Kids Worldwide. "And just making sure that kids have a comfortable, properly-fitted helmet will do wonders to keep that helmet in place and give kids a safe ride."

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