Traffic Inbox: How to properly wear a bike helmet

By Ryan Harper, Traffic Anchor
Last Updated: Monday, October 02, 2017, 1:12 PM EDT

This week we are talking about bicycle helmets and children.

  • Children required to wear helmets when riding bike
  • Many parents don't know proper way to put them on

Lots of children use them, it’s the law. But many parents do not know the proper way to put them on.

One such parent, Barbara S. from Orlando, writes in this week:

"What is the proper way to put on my child's bicycle safety helmet? I see lots of kids wearing them incorrectly, but how should I fit it on my child's head?"

For the answer, we talked with a certified helmet fitter (that's a real thing) and recruited a volunteer in this week's Traffic Inbox.

Anika Torres Vidrine, 9, loves riding her bike. She wears her helmet every time she rides.

"Umm, well my mom and dad make me,” she said.

Anika agreed to be our test subject this week to show us how to properly fit and secure your child’s helmet.  However, even though she knows it’s safe, she feels it's not the most comfortable piece of equipment.

"My bike helmet gets hot sometimes,” she said.

She’s not alone. However, the helmet is still a vital piece of safety equipment and it's the law for children up to age 16 to wear them in the state of Florida.

But, your child's helmet won't function correctly unless it's placed on their head properly.

We spoke with Amanda Day of Best Foot Forward and she gave us a checklist of how to properly fit your child’s helmet

Step 1:  Size

Measure the circumference of your child’s head, keeping the measuring tape above their ears and eyebrows.  Have your child try on several helmets closest to their head size and pick one that feels the most comfortable.  Now, with the helmet sitting level, adjust the sizing pads or fit ring until it’s snug.

Step 2:  Position

The helmet should sit level and low on their head, one or two finger-widths above the eyebrows.

Step 3: Side Straps

Adjust the slider on both straps to form a “V” shape under, and slightly in front of, their ears.  Lock the slider if possible.

Step 4: Buckles

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.

Step 5: Chin Strap

Buckle the chin strap.  Tighten the strap until it is snug, so that no more than one or two fingers fit under the strap.

Step 6: Final Fitting

Does their helmet fit properly? Have your child open their mouth wide…big yawn!  The helmet should pull down on their head.  If not, refer back to step 5 and tighten the chin strap.

Does their helmet rock back more than two fingers above the eyebrows? If so, unbuckle and shorten the front strap by moving the slider forward. Buckle and retighten the chin strap and test again.

Does their helmet rock forward into their eyes? If so, unbuckle and tighten the back strap by moving the slider back toward the ear. Buckle and retighten the chin strap and test again.

Roll the rubber band down to the buckle. All four straps must go through the rubber band and be close to the buckle to prevent the buckle from slipping.

Day also points out that there are several other factors to consider when choosing the proper head equipment for your child.  Here are a few:

  • Bicycle helmets sold in the U.S. must meet standards issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Look for the certification label inside the helmet.
  • Choose a helmet that’s well ventilated.
  • Buy a helmet that fits now, not a helmet to grow into.
  • Pick bright colors or fluorescent colors that are visible to drivers and other cyclists. An attractive, comfortable helmet is more likely to be worn.
  • Replace a helmet impacted in a crash, even if damage isn’t visible.
  • Everyone – adult and child – should wear a bicycle helmet when riding. Wearing a helmet on every ride encourages the same smart behavior in others.

So, where can you get certified to be a Helmet Fitter or make sure your child’s helmet is on correctly?  Watch for several events that involve bike helmet fitting during FDOT’s Mobility Week in late October.

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