Bicycle helmets are a basic staple of bike safety for children. Before your little one gets on a bike, you inevitably make sure the helmet goes on, and then you check the chin strap for proper fit and restraint. Many parents are educated about the importance of ensuring their child wears a helmet, but not as many are knowledgeable about what type of helmet will best protect their child in case of an accident.
Not all bicycle helmets are created equal, and you may come across some older helmets that are more of a novelty or fashion statement than a safety accessory. Understanding the criteria of a safe helmet can help ensure you make a good decision when purchasing one for your child.
How do I know if a bicycle helmet is safe?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has established standards of safety for bicycle helmets. These standards must be met for a helmet to be labeled CPSC approved. You should check the inside of the helmet for the CPSC label prior to purchasing any bicycle helmet. Helmets that do not meet the CPSC criteria might not be safe enough to effectively protect your child’s head in a crash.
Do manufacturers make bicycle helmets that don’t meet the CPSC standards?
The simple answer to this question is no. After March of 1999, the CPSC mandated that all bicycle helmets manufactured for children must meet the minimum safety criteria. However, you should still look for the CPSC approval label, especially if you’re purchasing a secondhand helmet.
Should I buy a hard-shell or soft-shell bicycle helmet for my child?
Both hard-shell and soft-shell helmets meet CPSC standards if manufactured after March 1999. Hard-shell helmets have a hard plastic or fiberglass exterior shell that covers the polystyrene plastic foam inside (the protective material that absorbs the impact to protect the head). These helmets are sometimes considered to be the safer of the two types of helmets, but soft-shell helmets that meet safety standards should be protective as well. The soft-shell (fabric) exterior cover must be kept on when riding to ensure that the polystyrene foam stays together in a crash.
Can I buy a bicycle helmet at a secondhand shop?
It is not recommended that you purchase or accept for free a used bicycle helmet under any circumstances. Even if the helmet has the CPSC approval label in it, the possibility that the helmet already experienced a crash is a concern. Once a helmet was involved in an impact such as in a bicycle accident, it can be damaged and ineffective in protecting your child’s head. Your child should only wear a helmet that you purchased new in the packaging to ensure safety.
Where should I buy my child’s bicycle helmet?
CPSC approved bicycle helmets can be purchased in department stores, at bicycle shops or at some discount stores. As long as you can be sure that the helmet is new and meets the CPSC criteria for safety, you can feel confident that it will protect your child’s head in a bicycle accident.
I want to bike ride with my infant. Is there a safe helmet for her?
Traveling with an infant under one year of age is not recommended for safety reasons. Young babies lack the neck strength to hold a CPSC approved bicycle helmet, and this same lack of strength makes them susceptible to injury if you would crash the bike. Children over one year of age can typically use a soft-shelled helmet for head protection, and you can ride with them in a safety-approved child carrier on your bicycle.