Bike, scooter riders urged to wear helmets

Bike, scooter riders urged to wear helmets Now that warmer weather is finally here, South Dakota kids who hit the road on bikes and scooters should remember their helmets, says a state official.

May is National Bicycle Safety Month and a good time to remind all bike riders that the first and most important step in bicycle safety is wearing a helmet and wearing it correctly.

"Research shows that properly-worn bike helmets can reduce the risk of serious head and brain injury by as much as 88 percent," said Sherrie Fines, child health coordinator for the department of health. "Cyclists who wear helmets are 14 times less likely to be involved in a fatal crash than those who don't wear helmets."

Fines said crash records from the Department of Transportation for 2000 indicate there were 120 injuries and one fatality from crashes involving bicycles in South Dakota. While state numbers are not available for scooter related injuries, the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates there were 40,500 emergency room visits nationally in 2000 for injuries associated with scooters. About 85 percent of these injuries were to children less than 15 years old.

Fines offered the following tips to reduce the risk of injury from bikes and scooters.

* Buy a bike helmet with a label or sticker that says the helmet has been tested and meets the new federal safety standard issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

* Measure the rider's head with a tape measure so you know the size helmet needed. Some children may require an adult helmet.

* Choose a brand and size that fits well prior to any adjustments; when buying a helmet for a child buy one that fits now, not one to "grow into."

* Adjust the helmet so it fits comfortably and securely. It should be worn level on the head, not tilted back on the crown or pulled low over the forehead. Once adjusted, you should not be able to move the helmet more than an inch in any direction.

* Remind your child to always wear a helmet and set a good example by always wearing your own helmet when you ride.

* Scooter riders should wear not only a helmet, but knee and elbow pads as well.

* Ride scooters on smooth, paved surfaces. Avoid streets and surfaces with water, sand, gravel or dirt.

* Do not ride scooters or bicycles at night.

For more information about bike safety, visit the department's Don't Thump Your Melon web site at Famhlth/bike.htm. Don't Thump Your Melon is a partnership involving the Department of Health, the state Office of Highway Safety, Rapid City Regional Hospital, Sioux Valley Hospitals and Health System, and Emergency Medical Services for Children.

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