As students ease back into their school routines, one thing that may have changed is how your child gets to school. Courtesy busing only extends to those who live 2 miles or more from school in Hillsborough County, and bell times are earlier than before for some students, with elementary students now needing to arrive by 7:40 a.m. More kids on the road competing with rush hour traffic can make for some ugly scenarios, but sensible precautions can make that early morning bike into some of your best school memories. Here are some bike safety tips from Michelle Sterling, injury prevention expert with St. Joseph’s Children’s Wellness and Safety Center.
The number one safety rule is to wear a properly fitted helmet. Sterling explains that the helmet should start no more than two finger widths above the eyebrows and straps should make a “v” around the ears. You should be able to fit no more than one finger between the chin and chin strap. Sterling likes to point out that this is actually not an optional safety step; wearing a bicycle helmet is mandatory in the state of Florida and being caught without one might get you a citation. If you want to make sure you’ve put it on your little one the right way, you can stop by the St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital’s Safety Store and the injury prevention experts in the store will help you choose the correct size helmet for their child. (https://baycare.org/sjch/for-patientsvisitors/the-safety-store or (813) 554-8510)
- Wear bright colored clothing so you can easily be spotted by drivers, especially as winter months make those early mornings darker. You can wear something reflective, such a vest or sash. Also, make sure you kit your bike out with reflective lights.
- If there is a sidewalk, use it to ride to school. If there is no sidewalk, ride on the right-hand side of the road. However, pedestrians should use the left-hand side of the road if there is no sidewalk.
- Be predictable. Sudden moves can confuse drivers; learn hand signals (see graphic) and use them.
- Make sure your bike is safe to use with an ABC check of the Air, Brakes, and Chains.
- Teach your child to pause at driveways; you never know when someone will reverse out of one without checking.
- Don’t text or talk on the phone, whether you’re driving, walking or biking to school. Be aware of your surroundings and the traffic.
- Model good behavior for your little ones by wearing safety gear and staying focused on the road.