Bicycle Month urges safety, helmet use

Bicycle Month urges safety, helmet use As spring's warm weather brings out the bicycles, roller blades, scooters and skateboards, South Dakotans should remember the helmets, too, says a state health official.

Every year in the United States there are 900 bicycle-related deaths, most of them from head injuries. South Dakota Department of Transportation accident statistics show there were 105 bicycle-related injuries and one fatality in South Dakota in 2001.

"Head injury is the leading cause of death in bicycle crashes and a major determinant of permanent disability," said Sherrie Fines, child health coordinator for the Department of Health. "The good news is that wearing a bicycle helmet that fits right can reduce the risk of serious head and brain injury by as much as 88 percent."

Fines said May is National Bike Month and a good time to remind all parents and bicycle riders that the first and most important step in bicycle safety is wearing a helmet and wearing it correctly.

She offered the following tips to reduce the risk of injury from bikes:

* Measure the rider's head with a tape measure to determine helmet size needed.

* Buy a bike helmet that has been tested and meets federal safety standard issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Wear it for every ride.

* Adjust the helmet pads and straps so the fit is snug and level. The helmet should be worn 1-2 finger widths above the head, not tilted back on the crown or pulled low over the forehead.

* If a helmet has been dropped hard or been in a crash, replace it.

* Make sure the bicycle is the right size. When sitting on the seat with hands on the handlebar, the rider should be able to place the balls of both feet on the ground.

* When straddling the center bar, the person should be able to keep both feet flat on the ground with about 1-inch clearance between the crotch and the bar.

* Have the bicycle checked over to make sure it is in good working condition.

* Ride single file in the same direction as other traffic.

* Check for traffic and be aware of the traffic around you. Over 70 percent of car-bicycle crashes occur at driveways or other intersections. Always look left-right-left, and walk your bicycle into the street to begin your ride.

* Wear bright clothes to be visible and avoid biking at night.

* Always use hand signals.

"Parents should also set limits on where children may ride, depending on their age and maturity," said Fines. "It's also important that parents be role models by wearing helmets themselves and by starting the helmet habit at an early age for their children."

For more information about helmets and bike safety visit the department's Don't Thump Your Melon Web site at Don't Thump Your Melon is a partnership involving the Department of Health, the state Office of Highway Safety, Rapid City Regional Hospital, Avera McKennan Hospital, Sioux Valley Hospital and Health System, and Emergency Medical Services for Children.

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