Kids Without Helmets
Jerry asked: I live in Spring Hill and though the school year is almost over August starts another. I very often see kids riding to and from schools without the benefit of brain protection. I would estimate less than 10% of the kids are compliant. What can I do to change this?
Although the law is quite clear on this,
s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations
(d) A bicycle rider or passenger who is under 16 years of age must wear a bicycle helmet that is properly fitted and is fastened securely upon the passenger’s head by a strap ….
enforcement is not as easy as it might appear. My experience is that police departments are reluctant to embark on strict enforcement of helmet laws without community interest. I am aware of situations that raised the ire of parents and the community in general due to such actions. One problem is: What do you do with a child that is cycling without a helmet? 1. Call the parents and have them pick up the child, remaining on scene until they do? 2. Take the child to the station and hold until the parents arrive? What if the child is not cooperative? I am aware of one situation in which an uncooperative child was forcibly restrained by the officer after being stopped for a helmet violation. The officer developed a reputation in the community that was not helpful to the department. Obviously, these situations can lead to considerable problems, particularly with parents who may not consider it unsafe. There is also the frequent compliant that the police don’t have anything better to do. Officers don’t necessarily want to be seen as the one who is “picking on the kids” instead of pursuing felons.
You do have courses of action though.
I recommend that you begin a whole community children’s safety campaign, which would include helmets. Ideally, it should include the school, the PTA and law enforcement. If the school is allowing kids to ride without helmets on school property, they are encouraging unsafe and unlawful practices. Police departments have access to low cost helmets from organizations such as Safe Kids, and frequently hold safety programs such as safety “rodeos”, which include free helmets for participants.
Let’s not forget also that just wearing the helmet isn’t enough. It must be properly fitted and securely fastened.
Safety training should also include the fact that using your brain is even more important than just wearing a helmet. Kids don’t necessarily know what is safe or unsafe and should be taught accordingly.
If these programs are initiated outside law enforcement, my experience is that police departments are happy to assist. For example, if the school asked for help with bicycle safety, my guess is that the police would help.
I suggest that you contact community leaders, including city council members and other officials, PTA, school officials and the police to try to begin a long-term safety program.
You may also find helpful information on the FBA website, floridabicycle.org.
Children observe and imitate the behavior of adults they regard as models. How many teachers, school resource officers, school staff, parents, local law enforcement and other adults do the students see traveling to and from school, or on streets in the general area, with bicycle helmets strapped on their heads? If most adults to be seen appear to be managing without much need for bicycle helmets, it can be challenging to persuade kids that using a bicycle helmet when riding is a responsible, adult thing to do.
You really can’t do much to promote helmets. I think that you need to make sure that the kids whether they are wearing helmets or not are riding safely, because at the end of the day that’s all that matters.