Did your child get a new bike over the holidays? Are they begging you to let them bike to school… but you’re feeling hesitant about it?
Your worries are understandable. Florida can be a dangerous place for cyclists, and kids aren’t exactly known for being careful.
However, children need to have some sense of autonomy, and if your kid is fighting hard to ride their bike to school, there are some safety techniques you can teach them to reduce their chances of getting into an accident.
Generally speaking, these can be divided into two categories: finding the best route and bike safety basics.
Finding the Best School Bike Route in Florida
Take a Safe Route
The safest route your child can take is a route with a sidewalk or bike path. This route is the best choice – even if it takes a few more minutes for them to get to school.
If your kid has no choice but to ride on the road, choose the route with the least amount of traffic. Take note of the traffic patterns during the school commute in the morning and afternoon. Routes with lower speed limits are generally safer for your child.
Watch for Intersections
If you have a choice, pick a route with fewer intersections. Your child is more likely to get injured in an intersection than you may realize. Also, practice using intersections when you are with your kid. Teach them to watch for the crossing signals and to make turns after looking both ways.
Look for a Distraction-Free Route
Routes with unrestrained pets, cluttered or cracked sidewalks, poor lighting, and any criminal activity can cause dangerous distractions for your child. Navigate the path with them and point out areas where he or she needs to pay closer attention.
Check with Authorities
Your child’s school or your local law enforcement agency may have helpful suggestions on the best routes for your child to take.
Check with Other Parents
Call the school to ask for a list of other parents who allow their children to ride bikes to school. Your child may be able to ride the same route and experience greater safety while making new friends.
The Basics of Bike Safety
Regular Bike Inspections
Help your child regularly check the bike’s chains, brakes, and tires. If you need to make repairs, don’t delay. A faulty bike can lead to serious injuries that you can easily avoid with regular bike inspections.
Keep the Helmet On
Your child can reduce his or her risk of head injury by at least 45 percent every time he or she wears a bike helmet. Because of this, it’s important to teach your child to never ride a bike without a helmet. Ever.
Wear Highly Visible Items
The right gear matters. Your child should wear light-colored or bright-colored clothing to be highly visible while riding their bike. If possible, choose jackets, shoes, and backpacks with reflective details that increase visibility. You can also add your own reflective tape to your child’s existing items.
Ride with Caution
It’s important that your child rides in a straight line and stays alert while riding. Your child’s risk of injury drops when he or she keeps both hands on the handlebars and eyes on the road. Also, make sure to teach your child the proper hand signals to use when turning and stopping.
Even after taking these precautions, it’s possible that your child may still be injured in a bike accident due to another’s negligence. However, arming them with these tips gives them the best chance at safely spreading their wings.
About the Author:
Jeffrey Braxton is a trial lawyer in Fort Lauderdale who has devoted his career to the practice of personal injury law. As lead trial attorney for the South Florida Injury Law Firm, Jeff has litigated thousands of cases and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, an exclusive group of attorneys who have resolved cases in excess of one million dollars.