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Convincing Your Kid to Wear a Helmet

You’ve found the perfect helmet for your child. Now how do you get her to wear it?

Sometimes it can be hard to get your child to wear a helmet. “It all starts with parents and care-givers,” says Losman. “If parents wear them, it says to their kids, ‘This is right.’”

Tips on getting your child to wear a helmet:

  • Wear one yourself. Ride bikes with your family and wear your helmet.
  • Start early. The younger your child is when she starts wearing her helmet, the more likely she is to wear it. If a young child wears a helmet while riding a tricycle, she will associate the safety gear with riding her bicycle, too.
  • Find role models who wear helmets.  Show your child professional athletes who wear helmets. Take your child to a professional bike race and be sure to point out the helmets they wear, and notice when friends or neighbors wear helmets.
  • Explain what can happen if you fall without a helmet. Tell him about brain injuries and what would happen if he were permanently injured.
  • Reward your kids for wearing their helmets. Be sure to praise your child when she wears her helmet without having to be reminded.
  • Let you child choose his helmet. If he picks a really “cool” one, he will be more likely to wear it.
  • Be consistent. Don’t allow your child to ride anything with wheels such as inline skates, a scooter, or a skateboard without wearing a helmet.

Adults Need Helmets, Too

It’s never too late to be safe. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the highest rate of bicyclist deaths occurred in men ages 45-49.

So kids are getting safer, why aren’t adults? “I’ve worked with a lot of parents, and it’s been my observation that it is a lack of education when they were younger, and obstinacy,” says Losman. “They think, ‘I never got hurt when I was a kid, and I didn’t wear one.’”

According to Randy Swart, director of the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, bike riders can expect to crash at least once in every 4,500 miles of riding. For many, it is not a matter of if they crash but when.

Choosing a helmet as an adult is much like choosing one for your child. Buy one that you like, that fits well, and that is comfortable and well ventilated. Be sure to find one that is brightly colored or reflective so that drivers will see you in dim light or poor weather. Adults may want one with an absorbent band to help control sweat on hot rides.

Don't Forget Other Safety Gear

Whether you're bicycling, skateboarding, or playing contact sports, everything you can do for protection is good, says Losman. "Knee pads, elbow pads, it’s all relevant,” says Losman. Appropriate safety gear should be worn while playing any sport.

Remember to wear your safety gear during practice, too. In a nationwide survey, 33% of parents asked said they often did not take the same safety precautions for practice as they did for games. This is important because more than 60% of all sports-related injuries occur during practice rather than during a game.

As with helmets, wearing the right gear for the right activity is important. When riding bikes to the park, for example, remind your child to take off protective gear before using playground equipment. Safety gear such as helmets may get caught in playground equipment and may pose a strangulation risk.

Similarly, Losman says, “Wrist guards are great for inline skating and skateboarding but should never be worn while biking or riding a scooter. They can interfere with the handlebars.”