Wisconsin Department of Transportation

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Inline skates safety

Inline skaters in traffic
Photo courtesy of AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

Inline skaters are not exactly pedestrians nor bicyclists. But they share some of the same sidewalks, pathways and streets, and must obey the same traffic rules and laws. Conflicts between skaters and walkers or other non-motorized sidewalk/path or trail users are likely to cause injury to one or both. And since inline skates are also permitted on some streets, there's an added risk of crashes with motor vehicles or bicyclists.

Crash causes and injuries

The good news is, inline skating crashes are mostly falls; few involve a motor vehicle.

  • Most inline skating injuries are to the wrist, as the skater reaches to break a fall.
  • But head injuries do occur and can lead to permanent loss of brain function.
  • Inexperienced inline skaters should always use full protective gear to prevent injury.
  • Parents should not skimp on safety gear just because kids are skating on sidewalks, driveways or parking lots.

Since inline skate crashes are not included in Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) crash figures unless they involve a motor vehicle, injury researchers should look to emergency room and ambulance services data.

There has been one fatality since inline skating was permitted on certain roads and streets in Wisconsin by law in 1996. The incident involved an adult inline skater on a prohibited high-speed state highway. There are few limitations in state law about where to or how to skate, but state highways are forbidden, as is attaching oneself to another vehicle, and imprudent skating.

Good inline skating practices

Remember that vehicles generally win in crash situations. Always wear proper safety equipment: A multi-sport or inline helmet, and wrist, elbow and knee guards.

Although inline skates have been removed from the category of "play vehicles" and now can be used on the street, other play equipment is prohibited on streets, including roller skates. To prevent crashes when inline skating on the street or sidewalk/path, remember that these paths are to be shared safely with others.

  • Be as visible and predictable as possible, functioning much like a bicycle, always going the same direction as other traffic, and following the traffic signs and signals.
  • Stay off state highways.
  • Check local ordinances to see if there are areas of town where inline skating is restricted, such as downtown shopping areas.

When traveling on multi-use trails give voice warning and pass on left if possible. On the street, a safe practice is looking and pointing where you intend to go if changing direction.

  • Learn how to stop, and avoid steep hills.
  • Walk trails and paths and sidewalks you plan to skate to be sure there are no hazards.
  • Some curves are too sharp for inline skates. Take note of these and slow your approach early.
  • In parks that have closed hours, watch out for chains and other barriers not readily visible in the dark.

Child vs. adult inline skating

Children learn quickly and lack a sense of danger. This makes them prone to take risks before they fully master inline skating. Parental or instructor supervision is important until you are certain both judgment and physical skill are enough to skate in traffic or high-risk areas. Parents learning with their children will find that the kids develop those spins and thrill moves long before the parent does. Do not let your child's physical skill fool you into thinking the child can skate anywhere.

Adults (including college youth) should be respectful of other users and vigilant about their own safety. Know the areas you skate. Know the kind of traffic at the time of day you will skate, and don't skate after or during alcohol consumption. Judgment is the first ability lost in alcohol use, followed quickly by balance - get a safe ride home.


WisDOT does not offer training for inline skating, however a few resources are available:

Questions about the content of this page:
Larry Corsi, larry.corsi@dot.wi.gov
Last modified: September 21, 2005

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