Bike Helmet Safety
Make Sure the Helmet Fits
Bike accidents are the second leading cause of serious injury in school-age children. Each year, an average of two bicyclists are killed in the Seattle area, and more than 200 are severely injured. Head injury is the leading cause of bicycle-related death and disability.
Bicycle helmets can reduce these risks by 85%. Wearing a helmet is required by law in Seattle, Tacoma, Bremerton and many other Washington cities. However, many kids either don't have a helmet or won't wear one. We want to change that!
Through the Kohl's Helmet Safety Program and Seattle Children's, we hold free monthly helmet fittings and giveaways for kids throughout Washington. Check out when and where we will be this year and come visit us to get your child properly fit with a new helmet.
A helmet won't protect your head if it doesn't fit right. Learn how to properly fit bike helmets for your family. Here is an easy, three-point check to test for proper helmet fit (PDF) (Spanish).
Helmet sits level on your child's head and rests low on the forehead, one to two finger widths above the eye brows. A helmet pushed up too high will not protect the face of head well in a fall or crash.
The straps are even, form a "Y" under each earlobe, and lay flat against the head.
The buckled chin strap in loose enough so that your child can breathe. There should be enough room so you can insert a finger between the buckle and chin. It should be tight enough that if your child opens their mouth, you can see the helmet pull down on top.
Why are helmets needed?
Helmets provide the best protection against injury, whether you child is riding a bike, scooter or skateboard, or using skates. Wearing a helmet can prevent about 85% of head injuries from bike crashes. However, a helmet will only protect when it fits well.
Help your child get in the habit of wearing a helmet by starting when they're young. Be a good role model and wear a helmet yourself.
How do I choose a helmet?
- Choose a helmet that meets safety standards. For biking, riding a scooter, recreational rollerskating and in-line skating, look for a CPSC (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) or Snell sticker inside.
- For skateboarding, or aggressive, trick or extreme skating, look for a helmet that has a sticker inside saying it meets ASTM F1492. It is not enough for the helmet just to look like a skate helmet.
- There are some helmets that meet both the CPSC and ASTM F1492 standards. They are multi-sport helmets and can be used for biking, skating, riding a scooter and skateboarding. Don't be fooled into thinking that helmets that look "skate-style" are always multi-sport. Look for the two safety standard labels to be sure they are dual-certified.
- Helmet costs vary. Expensive helmets are not always better. Choose one that fits properly, and that your child likes.
- Check used or hand-me-down helmets with care, and never wear a helmet that is cracked or broken. Used helmets may have cracks you cannot see. Older helmets may not meet current safety standards.
What are the pads for?
Helmets come with fit pads to help ensure a proper fit. Use the pads where there is space at the front, back and/or sides of the helmet to get a snug fit. Move pads around to touch your child's head evenly all the way around. Replace thick pads with thinner ones as your child grows.
How do I check the fit?
If you can move the helmet from side to side, add thicker pads on the sides or adjust the universal fit ring on the back if the helmet has one.
When done, the helmet should feel level, fit solidly on your child's head and be comfortable. If it doesn't fit, keep working with the fit pads and straps or try another helmet.
- Teach your child to take their helmet off before playing at the playground or climbing on equipment or trees. The straps can get caught on poles or branches and prevent your child from breathing.
- Leave hair loose or tie it back at the base of the neck.
- For skiing or snowboarding, you will need another type of helmet.
- Bike helmets are good for only one crash. Replace the helmet after a crash and when the manufacturer suggests. Follow the instructions from the manufacturer to know when to replace your multi-impact helmet.
Free and Low-Cost Helmets
See when and where the Kohl's Helmet Safety Program at Seattle Children's is holding free monthly helmet fittings and giveaways.