Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

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Advice to Parents of Teenagers

Summary: What to do when your teen refuses to wear a helmet.

Question: The kids around here don't wear helmets after age 12. What is a parent to do?

We don't think anybody has a good answer to that. We don't, for sure. But we have some suggestions that may help.

Your son or daughter is in the age group where fashion rules, and the urge to not be a dork is a huge part of life.

You could start by showing him our page of crash stories, but he may not read them, or take them personally.

You can try to change the culture, and get the rest of the kids wearing helmets, or at least his immediate friends. You can give his best riding friend a helmet.

You might get him a skateboard. Cool skateboarders do wear helmets--you can see them on the X games on TV all the time. If his skate helmet is dual certified it will work fine on a bicycle too.

You might take him to some bike races, both on and off road. All sanctioned races in the US require helmets. Just going to a race will get the point across that all of the competitors are wearing helmets. Ditto for the bicycle piece of a triathlon. And even the Tour de France racers are wearing helmets now. Does he think he is a better bike handler than Lance? The racers are competent, fit, well-equipped and well dressed riders who are good role models.

You might take him on one of the major organized rides. Bike New York, for example, or your local equivalent, or an MS ride, an AIDS ride or a similar charitable ride. Helmets are always required (but not everybody wears one).

You might enroll him in one the League of American Bicyclists' courses on Effective Cycling. Those courses teach road riding techniques and include enough helmet culture to make an impression.

You might buy him a really sexy helmet. Some teens don't feel like a dork with a $150 helmet on. If that sounds like bribery, it is.

You might just lay down the law. No helmet, no bike. Particularly if he wants a new and better bike. A new bike will go faster than the old one, so there is no doubt that he will have to wear a helmet if he gets it. More bribery.

You might try some other sort of incentive program: wear your helmet and I will take you to Hawaii to surf.

If all else fails you might take comfort from the thought that bicycle helmets may turn out to be a lot easier to deal with than other teen behavior problems.

We have a page up with a chat room exchange by parents on introducing your kids to helmets.