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Before they’re driving most kids will get around on wheels. It might be scooters, skateboards and hoverboards or even skates. There are laws in place for some but not all of these devices on wheels.
Do kids really get injured riding their scooter, skateboard, hoverboard or bike?
It’s a no brainer for my kids and I to wear helmets but I often see kids riding bikes without one or secured to their handle bars.
So is it a problem? Do kids get injured?
Take a look at the numbers from the last financial year for children aged 0-14 attending a hospital for an injury that happened on a bike, scooter, skateboard or skates. Just under a third of these are for head injuries.
There were 797 children aged 0-14 years admitted to a hospital in Victoria in the 2014/15 financial year for injuries related to skateboards, scooters, roller skates and bicycles, 28% of these children suffered head injuries. Nearly three-quarters were male and more than half were aged between 10-14 years. Over half suffered fractures and 83% stayed in hospital less than 2 days.
What does the law say about helmets and where to ride?
The graphics below to see what the rules are about what to wear for safety and where to ride.
Helmets legally need to be worn and securely fastened when riding bikes. Bikes must also have a bell, horn or similar warning device and at least one working brake. If you’re an adult riding with children who are younger than 12 then you can ride on footpaths. It’s important to remember that bike riders generally need to follow all the same road rules as drivers but there are some specific bicycle road rules.
All scooter riders must wear an approved bicycle helmet. The scooter also needs to have a working brake and bell. Most scooters are not fitted with a bell and many people are don’t know it is illegal to ride anywhere but on private property without one! Also if you are using a scooter at night (or when there is reduced visibility), it must be fitted with front and rear lights and a rear red reflector.
Skateboards and roller skates
While there is currently no legal requirement in place, it’s a good idea for children to wear a helmet on skateboards or when skating. These need to be used on footpaths, in parks and during the day on roads where the speed limit is less than 50 km/h and there is no centre line.
Electric skateboards, electric scooters and hoverboards
Many of the newer motorised devices on wheels such as electric skateboards and hoverboards can only be used on private property. They are illegal to use on footpaths, bike paths, roads and in skate parks and playgrounds.
The rules about where you can use an electric scooter depend on the size of the motor and how fast the scooter can travel. You can only use electric scooters on footpaths, bike paths and parks if the motor is under 200 watts and the rider is travelling under 10km/hr. These scooter riders must wear an approved helmet, working brake and bell. As with non-electric scooters, front and back lights and a red rear reflector needs to be fitted if riding at night or when there is reduced visibility.
When using an electric device that is more than 200 watts, it’s considered to be an electric motor vehicle and different rules apply.
What you can do
RACV thinks it’s common sense to use helmets when using skateboards and roller skates. Most people will already have an approved bike helmet so why not also use it for these wheeled devices? We would also recommend wearing elbow and knee pads on scooters, hoverboards, skateboards and skates.
The research report about safety on wheels
We have recently looked in more detail regarding the new wheeled devices. Research found that a fall or impact with a car from a recreational device can be as serious as one from a bicycle.
RACV is also calling on government to remove inconsistencies from the laws and to develop appropriate laws for the safe use of these devices. We think helmets should be required for skate boarders and roller skaters, like they are for scooter riders.
Written by Elvira Lazar, Research and Policy Officer January 25, 2017