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July 20, 2006

Fort Wayne Columnist Promotes Helmet Use

Back in May a columnist for an Indiana newspaper did a piece on the need for helmet use while cycling, especially by children:

In part she writes:

Put a child or adult on a bike, put the bike and person in a street or even a driveway, have both come in contact with a moving car and it’s a clear-cut formula for disaster.

In 2004, the most recent year data is available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 725 “pedal” cyclist deaths occurred; 13 were in Indiana. Children 15 and younger accounted for 21 percent of the 725 killed, and 56 percent of bicyclist deaths were among adults ages 25-64.

But add a helmet to the head of the bicyclist and the person is 14 times less likely to die than if he or she does not wear a helmet. People pay good money in the Hoosier Lottery with a thousand times fewer odds of winning than that.

Children ages 5-14 are treated more often in U.S. hospitals for injuries associated with bicycles than for injuries from any other sport, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians, or ACEP. This year, nearly 500,000 children and adults will require emergency room treatment from bicycle accident injuries.

Nearly half of all bicycle-related deaths are due to head injuries, according to ACEP data. And Safe Kids USA, a national child-safety advocacy organization, reports nearly three-fourths of those head injuries occur in children age 14 and younger. Additionally, 90 percent of all bicycle-related deaths involve a collision with a motor vehicle.

Google “bicycle helmets" and "safety statistics” and you’ll get no less than a dozen studies showing helmets save lives and reduce injuries.

“The use of helmets is the single most effective way to reduce head injuries and fatalities resulting from bicycle crashes,” said Dr. Rick Blum, president of ACEP.

Universal bicycle helmet use by children ages 4-15 would prevent 135-155 deaths annually, plus cause 39,000-45,000 fewer head injuries and 18,000-55,000 fewer scalp and facial injuries, according to Safe Kids. Helmet use however, among all ages, is lowest among children 11-14.

Yet only 40-60 percent of children consistently use bike helmets.

There is no federal law requiring children to wear bicycle helmets. As of February, only 20 states and the District of Columbia had helmet laws applying to bicyclists age 14 and younger. Some municipalities have approved

independent bike helmet ordinances. Indiana has no state or city bike helmet laws, confirmed Jeff Strei, spokesman for ACEP.

Fort Wayne.com ( 5/22 ): A small investment, a vital reward: Helmets can make a huge difference – if you wear them By Jennifer L. Boen.

***UPDATE - 7/21***

A follow-up by regular reader, and commentor, Fritz = Is Helmet Use Promoted to Detriment of Safety Courses?

***END UPDATE***

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July 20, 2006 in Pedaling Advocacy | Permalink

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