For a long time I thought that our society was becoming too overly protective. When I was young, I’d remember, we’d roller skate over jumps at alarming speeds without knee pads, and we’d barrel down hills on our bikes like banshees without helmets. And then I had kids. And then they got skates and bikes and scooters. And now I find myself wondering if they also make pink armor suits to match the various pads and helmets.
As it turns out, 300,000 kids visit the emergency room each year due to bike injuries. The most severe cases are head injuries, and it is vitally important for children (and adults) to wear helmets.
With gas prices through the sky, a number of school districts across the country are severely cutting back on school bus service, which in turn means more kids on bikes. Which is a great thing: More exercise, less fuel emissions, hurray! But if it isn’t done safely, it’s just not worth it. With that in mind, here’s a start on how to properly fit a bicycle helmet from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
Measure your head for approximate size. Try the helmet on to ensure it fits snugly. While it is sitting flat on top of your head, make sure the helmet doesn’t rock side to side. Sizing pads come with new helmets; use the pads to securely fit to your head. Mix or match the sizing pads for the greatest comfort. In your child’s helmet, remove the padding when your child’s head grows. If the helmet has a universal fit ring instead of sizing pads, adjust the ring size to fit the head.
The helmet should sit level on your head and low on your forehead–one or two finger-widths above your eyebrow.
Center the left buckle under the chin. On most helmets, the straps can be pulled from the back of the helmet to lengthen or shorten the chin straps. This task is easier if you take the helmet off to make these adjustments.
4. Side Straps.
Adjust the slider on both straps to form a “V” shape under, and slightly in front of, the ears. Lock the slider if possible.
5. Chin Strap.
Buckle your chin strap. Tighten the strap until it is snug, so that no more than one or two fingers fit under the strap.
6. Final Fitting.
Does your helmet fit right?
• Open your mouth wide–big yawn! The helmet should pull down on the head. If not, refer back to step 5 and tighten the chin strap.
• Does your helmet rock back more than two fingers above the eyebrows? If so, unbuckle, shorten the front strap by moving the slider forward. Buckle, retighten the chin strap, and test again.
• Does your helmet rock forward into your eyes? If so, unbuckle, tighten the back strap by moving the slider back toward the ear. Buckle, retighten the chin strap, and test again.
For more helmet tips, check out the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s page on Fitting a Bicycle Helmet.
You can also visit the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute for a highly comprehensive Helmet Sizing Chart that is listed by manufacturer.