Enforcement of bicycle helmet law begins in July

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

In 2007, more than 700 children were treated at Nationwide Children's Hospital's emergency department for injuries related to bicycles. By wearing a bicycle helmet, the risk of brain injury from such crashes is lowered by up to 88 percent. And yet, too few Columbus kids and teens wear a helmet every time they ride.

In July 2008, Columbus City Council passed a law requiring all bicycle riders under the age of 18 to wear a helmet. Effective July 2009, the police will have the option to enforce the law by issuing either a warning or citation, along with a possible $25 fine.

"Bicycling is a great way for children and families to be more active. We want children to ride bicycles; we just want them to do it safely, and bicycle helmets are essential for safe bicycling," said Nichole Hodges, MPH, CHES, home safety program coordinator, Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "Helmets are inexpensive, easy to use, and they are highly effective at preventing traumatic brain injuries."

The law also requires all Columbus youth under the age of 18 using non-powered scooters, inline skates, roller-skates and skateboards to wear a helmet. The helmet must fit the child's head and be approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Helmets can be purchased for as little as $10, but some community programs offer helmets for free or at a reduced cost to those unable to afford them.

Any fines collected as a result of the law will be put into a Bicycle Safety Fund to provide helmets to families in need.

Follow these bicycle safety tips:

  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Ride with traffic. Stay to the right. Do not ride into traffic.
  • Follow all traffic rules. Stop at red lights and stop signs.
  • Use hand signals to let drivers know which direction you are turning.
  • Walk the bike across busy streets and intersections. Look left, right, and left again before crossing.
  • Infants younger than one year should not be passengers on bicycles. Their neck muscles may not be strong enough to control head movement during a sudden stop.
  • Children younger than 10 should ride on a sidewalk or bike path instead of the street.
  • Remove helmets before climbing on playground equipment or trees.

Bicycle helmet fast facts

  • Bike crashes are one of the most common reasons children in Columbus younger than 14 are admitted to a hospital with injuries.
  • Bicycles are associated with more childhood injuries than any other consumer product except the automobile.
  • Each year, an average of 140 children ages 14 years and younger are killed while riding their bicycles, and more than 275,000 are treated in hospital emergency departments nationally for bicycle-related injuries.
  • Half of the children age 14 and younger who are hospitalized for bicycle-related injuries are diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries.
  • Seventy-five percent of fatal brain injuries among child bicyclists could be prevented with a bicycle helmet.
  • Bike helmets can lower the risk of brain injury by up to 88 percent.

Guide to the new law and tips for picking the right bicycle helmet (.pdf)

Watch Pediatric HealthSource at 5 p.m. Thursdays on 10TV News HD.

Each month, Pediatric HealthSource shares the latest treatment and research advancements from Nationwide Children's Hospital. This column is part of an ongoing community education project brought to you by: Discount Drug Mart.