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Parents’ bike safety messages to kids aren’t hitting home, university researchers find

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Iowa City, IA — For many parents – and their children – messages on bike safety may be confusing, conflicting or just plain out of date, results of a recent study from researchers at the University of Iowa show.

The researchers interviewed 36 parent-child pairings for the study, which involved children ages 10 to 15 who regularly ride a bike to school. The participants were asked about various instructions they had given or received about bicycling safety. The researchers examined the children’s current riding behaviors in relation to whether the parent and child agreed on specific messages that were delivered.

Wearing protective equipment – such as a helmet and bright clothing – was the most agreed upon instruction at 69.4%, followed by riding on the sidewalk or off the street (38.9%) and being cautious while crossing a street (30.4%).

One of the biggest concerns for the researchers was the parents giving instructions to ride on sidewalks, which is known to increase crash risk on driveways. For children 10 and older, it’s “more appropriate to ride on the road,” study lead author Cara Hamann, a clinical associate professor at Iowa, told Safety+Health. “That was a little alarming how prevalent that (advice from parents) was.”

The researchers recommend parents:

  • Become more familiar with current safety best practices.
  • Model good safety behavior for your child.
  • Spend more time planning the safest routes with your child to avoid congested streets.
  • Find a reputable source, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for evidence-based safety information.

“There are a lot of parents who haven’t biked for years and years, so their insights on safe biking might be a bit rusty,” Hamann said.

The study was published online Aug. 1 in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention.

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