Tuesday, June 20, 2000

Kids rewarded for helmet use

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — Firefighters in this city are rewarding hard-headed kids for their behavior.

        The Mason Fire Department has started a rewards program for children found wearing bicycle helmets. Because most bicycle injuries occur during the summer (about 85 percent), Fire Chief Billy Goldfeder says firefighters will be on the lookout for kids wearing protective head gear and rewarding them with a free red strobe light for their bikes.

        “This is another of our continuing programs focused on the safety and well-being of our kids in the city of Mason,” the chief said. “A simple accident with a child not wearing a helmet can alter that child's life for the rest of his life.

        “It's the same logic that goes with wearing a seat belt. If it can potentially save your life, why not do it? Why not protect your head?”

        The Mason firefighters' “Bright Kids” program is designed to increase awareness among local children about the benefits of wearing helmets, while reducing the number of bicycle-related head injuries. Wearing a bike helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

        Bike helmet use has increased from 18 percent in 1991 to 50 percent in 1998, according to the commission. Yet 43 percent of the nation's 80 million bicyclists say they never wear helmets, and another 7 percent claim to wear them less than half the time.

        Statistics show bike-related crashes kill about 800 people (30 percent are under 16-years-old) in the United States annually and send another 567,000 to emergency rooms.

        Children's Hospital Medical Center in Corryville reported bike-related injuries caused 1,093 visits to its emergency room last year, up nearly 14 percent from 962 in 1998. The hospital reported one fatality in 1998.

        There is no federal law in the United States requiring helmets. States and localities began adopting laws in 1987, but there is no formal, central registry for them. Mason has no ordinance in effect.

        “We need to encourage positive safety behavior when kids are young,” said Mason Fire Marshal Dyana Garland, who implemented the Bright Kids program. “Hopefully, wearing bike helmets will become a routine action that will carry over as they get older.”

        Parents can stop by any one of Mason's firehouses with their child and his or her helmet to receive the free strobe light. The Mason Fire Department will distribute about 1,500 lights through the program. For information: 459-7164.


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