The other day I was loading my son into his bicycle seat when he said in his demanding toddler voice, "I need my helmet." I was a proud dad at that point, because I realized that all of the nagging and fussing over him wearing the helmet is a thing of the past (for now at least). Helmets are only one issue when taking kids on bikes and Parents should be familiar with the various issues that effect the tiny people on bikes. Below are some of the issues I think every parent should know before putting their kid on a bicycle.
1) Helmets are Required for kids riding a bike: I represented a five year old that was hit by a car as the tiny little guy was crossing the street. He was dragged roughly 15 feet underneath the car, but miraculously his injures were limited to a broken arm and an severely injured knee. The little guy's helmet was obliterated, but doctors confirmed he did not have a head injury. The helmet had most likely saved this little guy's life. We all know they are a good idea, but it is also Oregon Law that kids under the age of 16 must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. Specifically, ORS 814.485 requires kids to wear a helmet when riding a bike. If the child does not wear a helmet then they can be fined.
2) Helmets are Required if the Kid is Riding as a Passenger on a Bike: I use both a bike seat and a trailer to transport my little guy. Either way my son is required to wear a helmet while he is a passenger on a bike. ORS 814.486 requires passengers on bicycles who are under the age of 16 to wear a helmet. The parent can be fined if they violate this law. The parent can also be fined for violating the law that mandates a child under the age of 16 must have a helmet while on a bicycle. This can result in two fines.
3) There is Only a Limited Exemption That Allows Kids to Ride Without a Helmet: The law exempts kids from wearing helmets if wearing a helmet would interfere with the child's religious beliefs. ORS 814.487.
4) If Your Kid Was Injured and Wasn't Wearing a Helmet, an Insurance Company Should NOT use That To Reduce The Amount of Compensation Your Child Receives: Although it is the law that a kid under 16 must wear a helmet, the law is forgiving in the fact that it prevents the jury from learning the kid wasn't wearing a helmet in a Jury Trial or Arbitration. ORS 814.489 This prevents the insurance company from blaming the injured child or the child's parents for not wearing a helmet. An understanding of this law is key in obtaining maximum compensation for a child who was injured while riding a bicycle.
5) There Is Not An Minimum Age to Ride As a Passenger on a Bicycle: When my son was a tiny little guy I was eager to get him on the back of the bike. I tirelessly researched the minimum age required for a little person to ride as a passenger on the bike. Not surprisingly, there is not a law in Oregon mandating a minimum age for a kid to ride as a passenger on a bike. Our pediatrician was also unaware of any hard and fast rules regarding the age of a kid to ride a bicycle. There is a dearth of information on the issue. However, she suggested that at a minimum a baby should be able to comfortably hold their head up for a long period of time. This is important because the tiny person's head gets jarred around on the bike. They need the strength to protect their neck and brain from the little trauma that occurs while going over a bumpy road. Also, their brains are not completely developed and the constant jarring can effect brain development. Wearing a helmet can complicate things because they can tweak the spine and push the head forward in an unnatural position. The linked article has a more thorough explanation regarding the various health issues that may arise while riding with small kids on bikes. In the end my son was a little over a year when he started riding with us.
If you have any more questions or concerns about Oregon's bicycle helmet laws please call me at 503.224.1658. Also, if you or someone you know are injured by another while riding a bicycle, please call Ross Law LLC at 503.224.1658. PLEASE REMEMBER this post does not constitute legal advice. Do not solely rely on this post. Also, the contents of this post is based on my own personal experience, and please rely on medical professionals to advise you of the best time to put your kiddo on a bicycle. Lastly, this post, this web-site, and this blog may be considered attorney advertisement.