Spring has sprung and the bikes are out. Now’s the time to perform a safety-check on your child’s helmet. William Martinen, a cyclist and owner of West Side Cycle, in Toronto, has been fitting bike helmets on kids for over a decade. Here are his top tips when it comes to headgear:
• Do not buy a helmet without trying it on your child’s head first. “Find one in the fit and size that is right for her, then let her pick the colour or design.”
• Helmets should be replaced every three to five years, or as your child outgrows it. Helmets break down and lose effectiveness over time due to exposure to sunlight and heat (do not leave in a trunk or car rear window), regular wear and sweat.
• Make sure you are buying a helmet approved by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Look for the certification on the box and on a sticker inside the helmet.
• Bike helmets are designed to protect against a single impact. Replace the helmet if your child has a major fall or crash involving his head, even if it appears undamaged. “If in doubt, change it out,” advises Martinen.
To ensure a proper fit, follow these helpful hints from Safe Kids Canada:
• Have your child try on the helmet for size. If too big, adjust the dial (a common feature in newer models), or insert the foam pads that come with the helmet, until it fits firmly on his head. The helmet should cover the top of the forehead and rest two fingers’ width above the eyebrows. It should be level on the head.
• Adjust the side straps so they fit snugly around your child’s ears in a “V” shape. The buckles on the side strap should fit right under the ear. Buckle the chinstrap. Tighten it until you can fit only one finger between the strap and your child’s chin. The helmet is on too loose if it moves around when she shakes her head.
• Teach your child to check the fit of his helmet every time. Helmets should not be worn when playing on playground equipment. The chinstrap can get caught and pose a strangulation hazard.
According to a recent study by The Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto, a child bicycling with a helmeted adult is 9 times more lucky to wear a helmet themselves. In British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, cyclists of all ages are required to wear a helmet and in Alberta and Ontario, the law applies to those 18 and younger. Elsewhere in the country, some cities have their own by-laws regarding helmet use.