While riding well can prevent crashes, they can still happen in spite of your skill on a bike. Wearing a bike helmet is the most effective way to ensure that if a crash happens, you will survive it. Please keep these five things in mind when thinking about purchasing a helmet:
1. Every helmet sold in the US meets the same safety standards. Spending $200 might get you a cooler helmet, but it won’t get you one that keeps your head safer.
2. However, a helmet won’t help if it doesn’t fit you correctly. Take these steps to put your helmet on right:
- Place the helmet level on your head, not too far forward or back. The brim should be about two fingers’ width above your eyebrows.
- The side straps should come to a V just below your earlobes.
- The chinstrap should be snug under your chin. When you open your mouth wide, you should feel the helmet tug down on the top of your head.
- The helmet shouldn’t wobble or shake when you move your head.
3. Helmet laws vary by location: people under 16 must wear helmets in DC and MD, under 14 in VA.
4. Helmets are good for one crash only! Additionally, they need to be replaced every 4-6 years whether you have been involved in a crash or not.
5. On a bike, you can avoid many crashes by paying attention and riding visibly & predictably. But you can’t control or avoid everything, and when a crash happens, a bike helmet is your last line of defense. Don’t ride without it!
This is just one tip for safer cycling, but the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) is a wellspring of more useful information. Make them your go-to resource for safety tips, bike classes, events and more at waba.org.