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Bike to school with a helmet

Tribune Staff • May 22, 2017 at 1:00 PM

We applaud area schools for participating in National Bike to School Day earlier this month, but we do have a concern that may have been overlooked.

The day was launched in May 2012 in coordination with National Bike Month, and it promotes the health benefits of bicycling to school.

It’s great to see so many school districts promoting physical activity, especially in a time when many kids and young adults are glued to phones and tablets. We all want our children to be active and develop healthy lifestyles, and biking to school is a great first step to reaching that goal.

Our concern, however, lies in the fact that many children elected not to wear a helmet while biking to school. This is evident in the Tribune’s coverage of Fruitport Community Schools’ National Bike to School Day event, where some of the students rode bikes to school without wearing helmets.

Children and young adults not to wearing a bike helmet isn’t just a local occurrence. A national survey conducted in 2001-03 found that only 48 percent of children ages 5-14 wore bicycle helmets when riding, and older children were less likely to wear helmets than younger kids, notes a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The phenomenon isn’t limited to kids. The CDC says millions of Americans ride bikes each year, but fewer than half wear helmets.

Although many argue that helmets don’t look “cool,” or peer pressure otherwise makes them go without a helmet, the possible consequences are less cool.

The CDC reports that, in 2010 in the U.S., 800 bicyclists were killed and an estimated 515,000 sustained bicycle-related injuries that required ER care.

About half of these people were children and adolescents under the age of 20. CDC figures state that, each year, 26,000 of these bicycle-related injuries to children and adolescents are traumatic brain injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms.

Given these stark statistics, it should be a top priority for local schools to encourage helmet use alongside the health benefits of biking to school.

Several ways schools could promote helmet use include partnering with public safety agencies to sponsor helmet giveaways, offering prizes to students who show up with helmets and educating kids about the consequences of not wearing a helmet.

And it seems like school would be the perfect place for these types of opportunities, given the expertise the staff has at educating and shaping the lives of our youth.

While some schools may already take these actions, getting all schools on board would go far in preventing possibly avoidable head injuries.

Not wearing a helmet is just too great a risk to take.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Mark Brooky. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

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