I’m a bit of a safety nut. Years of writing for the National Safety Council will do that to a person. So it should come as no surprise that I appreciate those in Riverside who are spreading the word about the importance of bike helmets.
It’s fantastic that the Riverside Junior Woman’s Charity teams up with the Riverside Police Department to present the bike safety rodeo. By all accounts, this year’s event was a whopping success, with 200-plus attendees quickly snapping up the entire supply of free bike helmets.
For future rodeos, though, I’d like to see more emphasis on proper fit. A helmet worn incorrectly provides more protection than none at all, but the level of protection increases significantly with a correct, snug fit.
Unfortunately, most children’s helmets are too loose. Study the next few riders you see pedaling past your house, or even the rodeo photos published in last week’s Landmark, both of which show too-loose helmets. One child’s is tilted forward, the other’s backward?”neither would be properly protected in a crash.
I think a real improvement to future rodeos would be to train several adult volunteers in helmet fitting and turn them loose on the rodeo participants. Also, providing helmet-fit handouts from the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (helmets.org) to attendees would do a real public service.
I’m also pleased to see the return of the summer “positive ticketing” program, which gives helmet-wearing children coupons they can trade for free goodies at Grumpy’s and Aunt Diana’s.
I hope officers will make a special effort to find and reward older children who are wearing helmets. They need all the positive reinforcement they can get to buck anti-helmet peer pressure. You might not think a 12 year old would get excited about a coupon for an ice cream cone, but officers in other “ticketing” communities have gotten a great response from kids in that age group.
And it would be great if officers who give the coupons to helmeted children riding with bareheaded adults make a point of encouraging the parents to wear helmets, too.
I sympathize?”I really do. Even though helmet designs are vastly improved from even a few years ago, they’re still not the chic fashion accessory safety experts would love them to be. They are hot and give just about anyone who has hair a bad case of helmet head.
But any inconvenience is dwarfed by the numbers: Out of 800 bicycle-related fatalities in the U.S. each year, a whopping 75 percent of those who die are adults. Whenever I’m even remotely tempted to skip the helmet, I think of that statistic and the thought of leaving my children motherless due to my vanity is enough to make me snap that buckle every time.
Plus, there’s the credibility issue. Parents who make their children wear helmets when they don’t are setting themselves up for a serious case of having their “do as I say, not as I do” attitude thrown back at them later.
With my older son’s teen years fast approaching, I want to bank all the credibility I can now before those really tough adolescent situations crop up. The end result? We all buckle up at our house, no excuses accepted.
Encouraging preteens and teens to wear their helmets is a tough sell, but I think a couple of recent trends can help us safety-minded parents. First, “cool cyclist” sightings are way up in Riverside. Almost every day I see at least one adult garbed in spandex and an aerodynamic helmet blazing through town. Let’s hope our kids notice and adopt the cyclists’ version of cool, too.
Also, play off Lance Armstrong’s unprecedented visibility. If, like 47.5 million other people in 60 countries, your child has plunked down $1 for one of those yellow rubber Livestrong bracelets, challenge him to be like Lance and wear that helmet every time he rides.
Finally, make Barbara Park’s “Mick Harte Was Here” required reading for your ‘tweens and young teens this summer. And read it yourself first. This no-holds-barred tale of what a boy’s family experiences following his death in a bike crash will get you back in the helmet battle even if you’ve already given up hope.