Helmet Usage & Kids: would you play cop to a stranger's child?
Riding in town yesterday, I noticed a pair of youth riding up ahead in the bike lane. There was a boy, younger, maybe under age 10, based on his size and the size of his bike. He wore his helmet and pedaled pretty hard to keep up with his companion.
The other child was probably in middle school, based on the size of her bike. Maybe they were siblings? Maybe she was tasked with picking him up after school and riding home with him? I don't know. I was heading someplace and didn't stop to converse.
As I approached, I noticed that the elder child, certainly not older than 16 years old, had a shiny Nutcase in her front basket as she pedaled along in the bike lane. I was surprised, and I was sad.
While there is no federal law that requires children to wear helmets on bikes (or scooters, skateboards or inline skates), 22 states and hundreds of localities have laws and ordinances mostly requiring all children under the age of 16 to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle or even as a passenger on a bicycle.
This info from the University of Michigan says that:
- wearing a helmet while riding a bike reduces risk of death by over 50 percent
- every 3 days, a child is killed in the US while riding a bike
- about half of children riding a bike where no helmet laws exist never wear a helmet
- helmet usage would prevent 40,000 head injuries and 50,000 scalp injuries in children, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Much of children's helmet usage might have to do with observing their own parents. Some of these parents cannot afford a helmet (one of every two children of polled families earning less than $30,000 never wear a helmet). Even though 78% of polled parents ride a bike, 27% of them never wear helmets.
Beyond parents, there is also the fashion statement. My own daughter said that three of her friends, all of whom ride their bikes to school every day, asked their parents to drive them to school on picture day, to avoid "helmet hair". As children get older, like this middle school-aged girl I saw pedaling ahead of me, they might become more and more conscious about wearing a helmet. They aren't cool and they don't make for the best 'dos.
As I came closer, I said, "What about your helmet?" I slowed a little bit to see what reaction I would get. She looked sheepish as she pulled over and stopped. I think she might have put her helmet on, but I couldn't stop to see.
Maybe I shouldn't have said anything. Or, maybe, since I did decide to do something, I should have pulled over and given the whole story on why helmet usage is important. Like wearing our seatbelts, it's a no-brainer: it saves lives. I don't know. What would you have done? Pedaled on? Stopped to chat? Do you see youth, especially teens and pre-teens, not wearing helmets while they bike?