In the years since I was a kid, the importance of bicycle helmet safety has become common knowledge. Unfortunately, many bicycle injuries still occur today when kids don’t wear helmets. I realize that good helmet ownership is sometimes financially out of reach for some families, so our law firm teamed up with a local area middle school to start the Brain Bucket Brigade. This program provides bike helmets to kids who might otherwise be unable to afford such a basic safety necessity.
But having a helmet is only half the battle. Whenever I ride, I notice a number of people not wearing helmets, especially children and teenagers. Helmet designs and technology have dramatically improved over the years and have prevented a large number of brain injuries as the result. A bicycle helmet, when worn properly, is the single most effective piece of equipment to reduce head injury in the event of a crash. The next step for our Brain Bucket Brigade is getting kids and parents to make wearing helmets a priority.
Why Don’t Kids Wear Helmets?
Herein lies the problem. According to a National Center for Injury Prevention and Control study from the Centers for Disease Control, only 48% of children ages 5-14 wear helmets when they ride. The study highlighted that older kids were much less likely to wear a helmet than their younger counterparts because it made them feel “geeky” or they thought it was uncomfortable. Out of 515,000 reported bicycle-related injuries in 2010 (the latest year available), about 26,000 were children or adolescents who suffered traumatic brain injuries requiring emergency medical attention.
What Can We Do to Help?
Helmets protect the frontal lobe that manages short-term memory as well as attention span, along with the temporal lobe and cerebrum, which manage emotions and voluntary muscle movements. We need to encourage research on making helmets more effective and laws requiring children to wear bicycle helmets. Only 21 states have enacted laws requiring children under 16 to wear bicycle helmets. Fortunately, Oregon is one of them.
There are a few steps parents can take to make sure helmets do their job:
- Make sure the helmet is properly fitted.
- After impact, the helmet should be replaced. Helmets are designed to protect the rider from only one accident.
- One rule of thumb on the lifespan of helmets is the two-year rule: An undamaged helmet should be replaced after two years of use.
With proper helmet wearing habits we can keep kids on their bikes, and out of harms way. Our Brain Bucket Brigade will continue to expand its helmet safety initiatives, so watch our site for new updates on this important program. If you would like to know more or get involved with the program, please contact us at BrainBucketBrigade@gmail.com.