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By Angela Phillips
It’s hard to believe that summer is here! I’m sure many of you have teens who are excited to spend the summer hanging out with their friends and relaxing at the beach. This break from the structure and demands of school is a welcome relief to most families.
Summertime can feel like a welcome release from the rules and restrictions of school for the youth in your household. However, the freedom of summer also corresponds to an increase in accidental injuries, car crashes, and risk-taking behaviors by young people as they find themselves with more time on their hands to spend outside of the house.
The increase of youth with e-bikes makes it easier for them to get around without having to rely on parents for a ride to hang out with their friends. While e-bikes are convenient for parents and youth alike, it is essential to make them aware of how to safely operate these motor vehicles and inform them of critical guidelines to keep them safe through the summer and all year long.
One of the most important safety tips you can enforce is ensuring your teen wears their helmet with the buckle secured. All youth under the age of 18 must wear a helmet while riding a bike. In addition to this, Class 3 e-bikes with speeds reaching over 28 mph require helmets regardless of age (you must be 16 or older to ride this class of bike).
In 2021, trauma centers saw an increase in e-bike-related injuries, and of those injuries, 36% were youth under the age of 17. In my neighborhood, I often notice teens riding their e-bikes with their helmets on their handlebars or unsecured on their head.
This does nothing to protect their head in the event of a crash.
Lack of experience, distracted drivers, and recklessness increase the risk of a crash, making it all the more important to ensure your child is wearing their helmet properly; it could save their life.
Before they take their first ride, make sure your teen knows the rules of the road. You do not need a license to operate an e-bike, so there is no formal training involved before taking the first ride.
Youth are not always familiar with basic bike safety rules such as riding with traffic and staying in bike lanes when available.
Tandem bike riding is not permitted unless the bike is a two-seater (these are not recommended for youth), and talking on the phone or texting while riding can be extremely dangerous—encourage your child to put their phone in a safe place.
In addition to this, at speeds of up to 28 mph, it may be harder for inexperienced riders to brake for pedestrians and oncoming traffic. Research shows that most youth under 12 do not have the perception or reaction time necessary to brake at higher speeds.
Spend some time helping your teen to get familiarized with their e-bike before letting them ride on the street. Please review the San Clemente city ordinance regarding where e-bikes are prohibited, discuss e-bike etiquette, and accompany your child on safety-check rides.
You can also visit the California Bicycle Coalition for important bicycle safety information and laws.
Whether your teen already has an e-bike or you are considering a purchase, it is important to do your research to ensure their safety. Taking these extra precautions will help give you peace of mind while your teen enjoys the freedom of their summer break!
Angela Phillips, the program coordinator for the Wellness & Prevention Center’s Drug-Free Communities Coalition, is a graduate student at Capella University. In addition to her work in prevention, she provides mental health services to WPC clients. In her free time, Angela enjoys roller skating, listening to music, and going to Disneyland with her two kids.