Tips to find the right bike helmet for kids

Paula Wolfson,

WASHINGTON – Bike helmets for kids are the law in the D.C. metro area. While children may complain about wearing them, there is no doubt a properly worn and fitted helmet can save a child’s life.

Dr. Scott Freedman, medical director of the Pediatric Emergency Department at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, says the number of kids who come into his ER with bike injuries is “significant.”

“The majority of children that have severe head injury and end up, frankly, dying, could be prevented if they wore helmets,” he says.

Freedman says part of the problem is parents think their children need to wear helmets when riding in busy areas, but not on neighborhood streets. And too many moms and dads send their kids out in helmets that just don’t fit.

“It either will get in the way of someone’s vision, will fall off, or will give someone the perception that they are safe. When in fact if you don’t put a helmet on correctly and wear it correctly, that alone will be greatly damaging,” Freedman says.

He suggests a simple finger test called “2-V-1″ to make sure a helmet is worn properly, is neither too tight nor too loose, and protects a child’s head without disrupting vision.

  • The “2” stands for two fingers width — the distance between the eyebrows and the front of the helmet.
  • The “V” comes from the fitting of the straps on the side of the head. When joined, they should form a V under each ear at the jawbone.
  • And the “1” is the magic number for checking the fit of the chin strap. One finger, and no more than one, should fit inside the strap.

Good helmets usually cost about $40 at local bike shops. Kids helmets come in various sizes. The best fit is obtained by measuring the circumference of the head an inch above the eyebrows. Opt for one in a bright color and possibly a vivid design — in short, anything that motorists will see.


  • Virginia – All children under 15 required to wear helmets while biking.
  • Maryland – State law requires helmets for all under 16. But in Montgomery County, helmets are required for all bikers under 18. In Howard County, the age limit is 17.
  • D.C. – All children under 16 are required to wear helmets while biking.

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