LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Following the holidays, kids may be enjoying the thrill of their two-wheeled gifts. But local police want to be sure they are enjoying them well within the law.
"This one is mine."
Eleven-year-old Critter Southerland lives her life on her bike.
"It's something that I can introduce my own self to my own world," she said.
Her father even says Critter was brought home from the hospital on a bike. She knows the joys of pedaling through life, but she also knows the dangers.
"This car actually ran over me." she said. "I didn't get hurt but I was crying, kinda."
"I've seen incidents with children and adults," said Officer Caitlyn Anglin with the Lynn Haven Police Department. "And thankfully in all the situations in Lynn Haven that I've been a part of we have had children wearing helmets which has actually saved their lives in certain cases."
Lynn Haven Police Officers recently took to their Facebook page to remind parents and their children about bicycle safety, especially when many children received bikes for the holidays.
"It's illegal to have anyone on the bicycle anywhere but the seat," Anglin said.
By law, Anglin said all riders 16 and younger must wear a properly fitted helmet.
"If it's riding either in front of them of behind their head you can actually get a fine as the parent and the child for riding unsafely," she said.
Riders need reflectors and lights in the front and back of their bikes that extend for at least 600 feet. Critter pointed out the lights, reflectors and "Critter" nameplate that adorn the front and back of her bike.
Anglin said riders also need to be aware of the road rules. She said bikers need to ride with the flow of traffic. Riders must obey all traffic signs and lights. They can ride on the sidewalk so long as they are able to give audible warnings to other bikers and pedestrians.
"They need to be following the flow of traffic and ride as far to the right hand side as they can," she said.
But safety isn't just the responsibility of the bikers. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Bay County saw more than 70 bike-related accidents in 2016.
Anglin said vehicles that share a lane with a bike must ride behind them. Riders, she said, must be given ample space in case a bump in the road throws them from a bike, leaving the vehicle ample time to react.
"You need to be sure to give them plenty of space," Anglin said. "If this means moving over to the other lane if there's room, please do so. Also make sure that you slow down."
Critter wants drivers and bikers to be aware. And despite her close encounters she's determined to pedal on.
"It really encouraged me to not let something ruin my fun!"