I grew up in a time when no one wore bike helmets. Or if we did happen to see someone wearing a bike helmet, we thought it was really strange.
I tore up and down hills on my bike, without a care in the world.
And I was just fine.
I did have a friend who wasn’t watching where she was going and she crashed into a mailbox, getting a concussion. But even with that, all our parents said at the time was “Make sure you’re paying attention to where you’re riding!” Not a single one suggested a helmet.
And it’s easy to look back on our own childhood experiences and say well, we were fine without bike helmets, so our kids don’t need them either.
Now, my boys wear helmets whenever they get on their bikes or scooters.
It’s not that I don’t trust them or their abilities to ride their bikes.
But, we know better now so we do better.
Head injuries are nothing to play around with.
And even if I feel confident in my boys’ biking skills, anything can happen. They could get distracted for a moment, a rock they don’t see could be in the road, a car might not see them, a dog could run out and startle them, they could try some sort of jump even though we’ve talked about what they can and can’t do.
It’s habit for them to put their helmets on. I don’t even have to remind them: it’s a non-negotiable rule at our house that if you get on a bike, you put your helmet on. There are some really cool helmets available now and I’ve let my boys choose theirs to make it more attractive to wear them- though again, I’ve never made it an option, so my boys haven’t argued about it.
But the majority of the kids in our neighborhood do not wear helmets, which has led my kids to ask questions. To explain, I’ve told my boys that NC has had a law since 2001 that all kids 16 and under have to wear a helmet.
And no, neighbor lady, I did not make that up so that my child will wear a helmet (thanks for telling him that, really, I appreciate it- please go Google it before you say such nonsense to my child).
There is no federal law about bike helmets, but the majority of states DO have their own laws about them. Some all ages, some for certain ages, and some have bike helmet laws just in certain areas. We might not really be aware of them because we were older than the required ages when they went into effect and there’s still that attitude of “I didn’t have to wear one when I was a kid.”
While I don’t tell kids who aren’t my own that they need to be wearing them, no kids (mine or not) can ride any of our bikes or scooters without one. As I was looking up the info for our states’ bike helmet law, I found this: Studies show that helmets prevent 60 percent of head injury deaths and reduce the overall risk of head injuries by 85 percent. Maybe my children will never get into a bike accident and they won’t really “need” their helmets. But WHAT IF?
I look at it this way: I wouldn’t (and actually CAN’T- the coaches won’t let them participate) send my boys to a sports practice without the proper safety gear, so it makes sense to extend this to bike helmets, too.
This post originally appeared on my sister site, The Soccer Moms.