Study Proves We’re Not Doing Enough To Get Kids To Wear Bike Helmets

28148811_9537466870__1382890330_142.196.156.251When I was a kid we never wore bike helmets. We also jumped in our parents’ cars and sat on floor of the backseat, unrestrained. Times change – and as we figure out how dangerous certain behaviors are, we should aim to correct them. A new study shows we are really failing at keeping kids safe on bikes:

Despite a California bike helmet mandate, only 11 percent of Los Angeles County children treated for bike-related injuries were wearing a helmet, according to an abstract presented Oct. 26 at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando. Specifically, children older than age 12, and low-income and minority children were less likely to wear a bike helmet.

Of the 1,248 kids involved in bike-related accidents in Los Angeles County, only 11.3 percent wore helmets. There were definite gender differences: 64 percent of kids involved in accidents were male. Some huge ethnic based differences became evident in the study as well; “35.2 percent of white children wore helmets, compared to 7 percent of Asian children, 6 percent of black children, and 4 percent of Hispanic children.”

“Our study highlights the need to target minority groups, older children, and those with lower socioeconomic status when implementing bicycle safety programs in Los Angeles County,” said study author Veronica F. Sullins, MD.

Regional studies highlighting racial or ethnic and socioeconomic differences may help identify at-risk populations within specific communities, allowing these communities to more effectively use resources, said Dr. Sullins.

“Children and adolescents have the highest rate of unintentional injury and therefore should be a high priority target population for injury-prevention programs,” Dr. Sullins said.

I can understand older kids being reluctant to put on helmets; I remember how vain I was as a teenager. But if helmets become the norm, kids who wear them won’t be seen as pariahs. I’m sure in the seventies it was probably an uncool behavior among teens to wear seat belts. Today – the majority would agree it’s a good idea.

If this study proves anything, it’s that simply making a helmet law isn’t enough. We need to provide access, education and affordable options. Since there are currently only 21 states that have any bike helmet laws at all – there’s a lot of work to be done.

There are many affordable helmet options out there. If you think your community may be in need of this type of outreach, it may be a good idea to work with a school to organize a helmet drive. The helmets on the site start at only $3.95 and they meet the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) safety standard.

(photo: Flickr/CreativeCommons/ tico_24)

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