15 tips for helmet safety

Netcare 911 offers tips for cyclists on helmet safety.

Speeds of up to 20km per hour and much higher are easily reached on a bicycle. Falls from a bicycle at such speeds may cause permanent, irreversible injury. “Wearing a helmet increases your chances of preventing serious injury from a fall, crash or collision,” said Mande Toubkin, Netcare’s general manager, emergency, trauma, transplant and corporate social investment.

Toubkin offers the following tips for choosing, fitting and ensuring the safety of a helmet:

How to choose a helmet:

  • The most important things to look out for are the certification sticker and a good fit.
  • Both soft and hard shell helmets have thick layers of polystyrene, so choose the type you prefer.
  • The helmet should be comfortable, must cover your forehead and should not be so loose that it is able to slip back and forth on your head.
  • Do not buy a helmet that your child will ‘grow into’. Buy a helmet that fits your child now.

How to fit a helmet (remember the 2-V-1 helmet salute):

  • There should be a two-finger space above your eyebrows to the base of the helmet. This ensures that your forehead is protected should you fall.
  • Use four fingers to make a ‘V’ shape around the bottom of your ears. Keep the straps straight and taut as this will keep the helmet fixed in position as you ride.
  • Place one finger under the strap beneath your chin. Keep the chin strap taut, so the helmet doesn’t slide back or forth on your head.
  • To adjust the length of the straps, start with the rear straps, then the front straps and finally the chin strap, which should be comfortably snug.
  • When you think the length of the straps is correct, shake your head around. Put your palm under the front edge and push up and back. If you can move the helmet more than 2.5cm then you need to tighten the strap in front of your ear and perhaps loosen the rear strap behind your ear.
  • When you are done, your helmet should be level, feel solid on your head and be comfortable.

How to ensure that your helmet is safe:

  • Regularly check and inspect the helmet to see if it needs to be repaired or replaced.
  • Always replace a helmet that has been involved in an accident or is damaged.
  • Check the exterior covering of the helmet to ensure that there are no cracks or abrasions. Cracks are signs of ageing and mean that the helmet needs replacing.
  • The liner should be firm and the thickness of the foam should be uniform and not compressed.
  • The straps and buckle should not be worn, no parts should be missing and all parts should be in good, working order.

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