The Role of a Helmet in Child Bike Safety

      compiled from material supplied by Citizens for Safe Cycling

      A helmet is designed to mitigate the impact of a blow to the head. Even the best helmet is unable to provide complete protection. According to William Coffman of the Canadian Standards Association "a bicycle helmet is strictly for falls". It is important that every cyclist understands that by putting on a helmet does not make one immediately invincible. Cyclists must not take more risks just because they wear helmets. Fatalities occur among helmeted cyclists too.


      As many as 80% of child cycling accidents are caused by cyclist error. Based on this, as many as 40 of the 50 Canadian child cycling deaths in 1990 could have been avoided by the children themselves. A helmet is of value only after an accident has started to take place, and it won't protect against serious injuries to other parts of the body. The best protection against any bicycle injury is accident prevention through correct and safe operation of the bicycle.


      Just telling a child to "wear a helmet" is not good enough. As parents, we would not give a 16 year old the keys to the family car and say "don't forget to buckle up" before the young person has taken driver's ed. Education in operating a bicycle as a first vehicle is the initial step for any child. Child cyclists should receive instructions and be taught the rules of the road and their purpose. They need to understand cyclists drive a bicycle according to the same rules and practices as their parents drive a car. Cyclists are not pedestrians on wheels. They must learn the concept of yielding right of way, particularly at the end of driveways. Young children also should be supervised and get experience by riding on roads with their parents or other competent cyclists. They'll need this experience for riding on their own when they are older.


      The other 20% of child cycling accidents which are caused by motorist error needs to be recognized by parents. Since most parents are motorists also, it is essential they recognize that as motorists, they too have a responsibility to learn how to safely share the road with cyclists.

      The Bicycle Helmet FAQ answers frequently asked questions

December 2008
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