Bicycle education for children in the U.S. is often overlooked or lacks consistency. Research reveals that children receive very little information regarding bicycle safety from their parents and teachers, and when they do, it is often inconsistent with little regard for age appropriateness.
For example, some will tell children to ride on sidewalks while others will teach children to ride in the street. When considering what is best for your child, it is important to remember that children of different ages have varied levels of coordination, balance and reaction times. Because children will just start to develop the capacity to master the dual responsibility of handling their bicycles and traffic safety skills simultaneously after age nine, research indicates that younger children should be instructed to strictly use the sidewalk or bike path when unaccompanied by an adult/capable bicyclist.
As children get older and into adulthood, riding in the road is generally preferred over sidewalks to reduce collisions with pedestrians and also because drivers of motor vehicles tend to be more diligent about scanning the road than sidewalks for possible hazards, especially when executing turns. However, this should be determined on a case by case basis as some strips of road are never biker friendly and should be avoided. Remember that kids ages 12-18 may have increased reaction times and problem solving skills when it comes to navigating their bike on the road, but they also have little experience and are prone to risk taking, which can both spell trouble. Bicycle safety education for this age group should include how to anticipate and manage situations they may encounter while biking and the consequences of risk-taking to reduce bicycle accidents.
As a general rule, children of all ages should be well versed on the basics of bicycle safety such as wearing bright colors to be seen, the proper use of helmets, bike riding skills, bicycle maintenance and where exactly they can ride and when. Before they graduate to riding in the street with cars and trucks it is important that they are familiar with traffic safety laws and rules.
Unfortunately, all too many children are injured in bicycle accidents annually. Bicycling is the most common cause of sport related traumatic brain injuries (TBI) often resulting in permanent disability. Each year hundreds of thousands of kids wind up in emergency rooms with injuries sustained in bicycle accidents – thousands are hospitalized and, sadly, some are lose their lives. Not only is it important for teachers and parents to educate children about bicycle safety starting at a young age and on, but also, it is critical that motorists drive responsibly to avoid accidents while kids learn the ropes. If you or a family member is injured in a bicycle accident, contact the Davenport personal injury law offices of McDonald, Woodward & Carlson PC for assistance today.