A Bicycle Helmet
For My Child
Summary: web page version of our pamphlet for parents.
First, A Chuckle
What you need to know
Does my child really need one?
The simple answer is yes. Laws now require helmets in many
. That is because medical research shows that a bicycle helmet can prevent most cyclist head injuries. More than
800 bicycle riders are killed in the U.S. every year, almost all in collisions with cars, and 75% of them die of head
injuries. Many thousands more suffer less severe but still debilitating injuries that are far worse than the physical
pain of scraped skin or even broken bones. Your child can suffer permanent personality changes and learning disabilities
from a brain injury, and both of you will be aware of what they have lost. Common long-term effects include concentration
difficulties, aggressiveness, headaches and balance problems. Imagine a parent's anguish if this happens to their
What will it cost?
Helmets sell in bike shops from $30 and up, or in discount stores for $15 and up. A good shop
helps with fitting, and fit is important for safety. Lab tests indicate that a discount helmet
is equally protective
if you take the time to fit it carefully on your child. All helmets are cheap for their
benefit, so don't wait for a sale.
Will I have to buy one every year?
No. Heads grow less than legs and feet. Many child helmets come with two or
even three sets of foam fitting pads. You can start with thick pads and use the thinner pads as your child's head grows.
The fitting pads do not affect the impact protection of the helmet. That is provided by the firmer crushable foam (picnic
cooler foam). And many models have adjustable ring-fit bands.
Will my child actually use it?
Yes, if other children wear one, their parents and other role models use one, the
teacher at school has told them how much good helmets do, and the child has picked out the one they really want. No, if
the helmet makes your child feel like a geek, nobody else uses one and it does not fit well. Yes if you have the will to
enforce the rule. Most situations fall somewhere in between, and you know your child best. Seventh grade seems to be the
most resisting age for helmets, when the feeling of invincibility is strong and the rage for fashion is undeniable. The
key motivator of helmet use for kids is fashion, not safety. Try to make use of that if you can. We have more tips on
getting kids to use helmets
Does A Toddler Need a Helmet?
A child of any age needs head protection when riding, but a small toddler's neck
may not be developed enough to support the weight of a helmet. For this and other reasons, nobody in the injury
prevention community recommends riding with a child under one year old. If in doubt, take child and helmet to a
pediatrician for advice. Child helmets need ventilation in hot weather, since the foam holds heat in. Toddler heads vary
in shape, so pay careful attention to fit. The helmet should sit level on the child's head, and fit securely with the
strap fastened. We have more info on taking your toddler along
What about standards?
All helmets sold in the U.S. must meet the US Consumer Product Safety Commission CPSC
standard and state that on a sticker inside. Fit is not tested by the standards, so you have to try the helmet on your
child's head. Outside the US you should be careful to look for a standards sticker that you recognize like the European
CEN standard or the AUS standard in Australia. Fit is not tested by any of the standards, so try the helmet on your
child's head before buying.
What one should I buy?
There are many good helmets on the market. Consumer Reports
has some brand recommendations. Collapsible plastic liner materials recently appeared and offer promise, claiming to
reduce concussion-level energy. Since basic impact performance is legally required, you can choose based on how well a
helmet fits your child and which one your child likes. A discount helmet will be equally protective if you take the time
to fit it carefully on your child. And the price, of course!
How to Buy
Guide your child to pick a helmet with a smooth shell in a bright color. It's nice to have a
pinch-proof buckle. Put it on your child, adjust the straps and pads or the inner one-size-fits-all ring, and then make
sure it will not come off.
When to Replace a Helmet?
Replace any helmet when your child crashes in it. Impact crushes some of the foam. The
helmet is less protective although the damage may not be readily visible. Helmets soften impact, so the child may not
even be aware that their head hit until you examine the helmet for damage. Replace the buckle if it cracks or if any
piece of it breaks off. Nobody prompts you to replace your child's helmet, so give it some thought.
Bike Helmets for Other Sports?
Standards for biking include inline skating. There is no standard for tricycle or
scooter helmets, but CPSC
says bicycle helmets work well
for them. Aggressive extreme trick skating and skateboard helmets have a different
standard (ASTM F1492) for multiple hits but lesser impacts. Many skate helmets meet bike helmet requirements, but only if
they have a CPSC bike standard sticker inside. Helmets for equestrian sports have a unique design to resist a horse's
Warning: No Helmets on Playgrounds!
In 1999 the first US death involving a bike helmet catching on playground
equipment occurred. There have been other near misses. Be sure to teach your children to remove their helmets before
using playground equipment or climbing trees!
The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute
BHSI is a helmet advocacy program whose volunteers provide helmet information
and work on the ASTM national helmet standard committee. We are funded by small consumer donations of about $11,000 a
year. We do not accept funding from manufacturers or anyone involved in helmet sales.
BHSI is located at 4611 Seventh Street South, Arlington, VA 22204-1419, tel. 703-486-0100. Our website where you found
this page is at www.helmets.org. You can contact us by email
This pamphlet was produced with donations from those who read it earlier. We welcome your tax-deductible donation to make
it available to the next rider or parent who will need it. Thanks!
Copyright 2024 by the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute
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