Friday, July 28, 2000

Accident spawned town's helmet law

Waynesville has Tristate's first

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Corry Collier's head injuries were the impetus for a helmet law in Waynesville.
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        WAYNESVILLE — A teen-age skateboarder who nearly died from a fall has given life to the Tristate's first ordinance requiring children to wear helmets while biking or riding skateboards and in-line skates.

        Corry Collier, 14, slipped from his board last month while speeding down a steep High Street hill in Waynesville's central business district. His head hit the pavement and his skull was fracturing. He awoke after nearly a week in a coma, and is recovering.

        But the impact of his near-fatal fall will be felt here for years to come. Village Council members, appalled at the severity of his injury and the ease with which it could have been prevented, enacted the helmet law last week. It will take effect Aug. 17, and requires kids under age 16 to wear helmets while riding on public property.

        Waynesville is one of only a half-dozen communities in Ohio to require helmets for children.

Angie Nichols makes sure daughter Cory, 5, wears a helmet while bicycling.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        “If we have to be the first in the area, that's all right,” Waynesville Village Manager Kevin Harper said. “We just want to do what's right to protect the safety of our children.”

        And Corry's accident provided council with the motivation.

        “These types of injuries are becoming more promi nent and they are totally avoidable.”

        Police and village officials are now busy distributing postcards to familiarize residents with the new law. Fines for repeat violators could reach $1,000.

        Severe injuries and deaths nationwide have prompted similar ordinances; and at least 15 states have helmet laws for children and teens, according to officials from the Greater Dayton Safe Kids Coalition.

        Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana have no such statewide laws, and coalition officials say no municipalities in Kentucky or Indiana have local helmet ordinances.

        Area child safety advocates, meanwhile, applaud the village for enacting the law. Helmet use by children and teens, they say, could prevent thousands of injuries nationwide each year.

        Anita Brentley, coordinator of Children's Hospital Medical Center's Injury Prevention Program in Cincinnati, said more Tristate municipalities are beginning to consider helmet requirements.

        “There is definitely a need,” she said.

        The city of Centerville, south of Dayton, passed a similar ordinance in December, said Tamy Sollars, coordinator of Greater Dayton Safe Kids Coalition. She expects more municipalities to follow suit, and hopes that eventually the state legislature will mandate helmet use.

        “This is a very big issue that's getting bigger,” said Ms. Sollars. 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.

        Corry, who lives in Florida and was in town visiting relatives, was not wearing a helmet when he fell on June 20.

        As blood pooled around him, Waynesville businessman Dick Hoppe rushed to aid the unconscious teen.

        “Blood was gushing out of him,” said Mr. Hoppe, co-owner of the Crazy Quilt Antiques store at High and Main streets.

        Corry was taken by Care Flight to a Dayton hospital, nearly died in flight and then slipped into a five-day coma. Though he may suffer some permanent impairment, he has recovered enough to travel and returned recently to Waynesville to thank Mr. Hoppe and others who helped save his life. The lessons of Corry's accident, and the need for the village's law, are getting around here. Predictably, there is some disagreement over it, especially among teen-agers.

        Brandon Saylor, 14, said he doesn't always wear a helmet while biking. It obstructs his vision and, perhaps more important to a teen-ager, messes up his hair.

        He said he understands the importance of the helmets in preventing traumatic head injuries, but believes the law should target smaller children.

        “Younger kids — 10 years and younger — it would be better for them,” he said.

        But Brandon's mother, Donna Saylor, supports the new ordinance. She estimated that in her Waynesville neighborhood, fewer than half of the children riding bikes wear helmets.

        Another Waynesville mom, Angie Nichols, insists that her 5-year-old daughter, Cory, wear head protection when she bikes.

        “I know she is young and she is going to fall. The helmet will protect her from head injuries,” Ms. Nichols said.

        Waynesville Police Chief Allen Carter plans to spend a month or so after the law takes effect educating children and their parents, and issuing warnings to those who violate the helmet law.

        After that, bicycles, skateboards and roller blades can be impounded for up to 30 days. With subsequent violations, parents can faces fines ranging from $100 to $1,000.

        “Our goal is not to cite anybody. Our goal is to protect them,” Chief Carter said.

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