Protect Your Brain: Wear a Bike Helmet

April 4th, 2024

Wipe the dust off your seats, check the tire pressure, and make sure you have a properly fitted helmet. Spring has sprung and it’s time to resume all your favorite outdoor activities.

One of the many outdoor activities to enjoy this time of year is bicycling. Whether you’re riding alone, with friends, or with family, there’s one piece of equipment we don’t want you to forget: your bike helmet.  

Bicylce-related accidents can result in injuries that range from small scrapes to severe head injuries. While minor injuries happen often, a bicycle mishap can also lead to major injuries such as broken bones, separated shoulders, concussions, head trauma, or even death.

In the United States, nearly 1,000 bicyclists die, and over 130,000 are injured in crashes that occur on the roads. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “adolescents, teens, and young adults have the highest rates of bicycle-related injuries treated in emergency departments (EDs). People ages 10-24 account for nearly one-third of all bicycle-related injuries seen in the US EDs.”

It’s important for everyone to wear a helmet when riding a bike because you never know when a bicycle-related accident will occur. There are many factors that impact your safety when riding a bike, such as pedestrians, other bicyclists, and cars. One unexpected action may cause you to swerve, lose your balance, or crash your bike, resulting in a situation where you may fall and hit your head.

Bike helmets cannot completely protect you from impact, but they can help protect you from a serious brain or head injury. Helmets are designed to cushion your skull when you fall by distributing the force throughout the foam liner instead of letting your head absorb the shock directly.

The outside of your helmet protects the foam layer from getting scratched up or ripped. One of the most essential elements of your helmet is the chin strap. If the chin strap does not fit properly the helmet is almost useless. 

Tips for fitting your helmet:

  • Your helmet should sit flat on your head – ensure it’s level and isn’t tilted back or forward.
  • The front of the helmet should sit low – about two finger widths above your eyebrows to protect your forehead.
  • The straps on each side of your head should form a “Y” over your ears, with one part of the strap in front of your ear, and one behind – just below your earlobes.
  • If the helmet leans forward, adjust the rear straps. If it tilts backward, tighten the front straps.
  • Buckle the chinstrap securely at your throat so that the helmet feels snug on your head and doesn’t wiggle up and down or from side to side.

To help promote bicycle safety, Graham Fire & Rescue has bike helmets available for children within our fire district. Helmets are custom-fit, and the wearer must be present for the fitting. Click here to schedule a helmet fitting appointment.

Washington currently has no law requiring helmet use, but some cities require helmets, including Puyallup, Orting, Eatonville, and Tacoma. Please visit Washington State Department of Transportation for the full list of cities.

Pierce County’s bicycle helmet law states, “any person bicycling or riding as a bicycle passenger on or in tow of a bicycle upon any public area in unincorporated Pierce County shall wear an approved bicycle helmet designed for safety that meets or exceeds the standards adopted and shall have either the neck or chin strap of the helmet fastened securely while the bicycle is in motion.”

If your child does not want to wear a helmet perhaps try adding some stickers or reflective stickers to it to make it more appealing.

A helmet should be replaced every time you have a fall or hit your head, especially if it cracks and is damaged. If no fall occurs it is recommended to replace the helmet when the wearer has grown out of it or every 10 years.

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