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What You Need to Know About Helmet Safety

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

 

Last year, the majority of children who were taken to UMass Memorial Medical Center’s trauma center for a bicycle accident, were not wearing helmets. Of the 45 reported accidents involving children ages 17 and under, only 38 percent were wearing helmets, something that Esther Borer, the hospital’s Injury Prevention Coordinator, is sad to hear.

In that same time period, adults suffered 51 accidents, but 62% were wearing helmets. Borer believes that everyone – children and adults of all skill levels need to be reminded of the importance of wearing a helmet as the warm weather arrives.

“Chances are these adults are not riding with their kids. If they were, the kids would have a higher chance of being made to wear them,” Borer said. “They’re easy to fit and adjust. People just aren’t wearing them. Another thing we see a lot are helmets on kids, but parents are not wearing them. So much for teaching children is wearing it themselves.”

Biking in Worcester

Local resident and avid biker, Laura Overton, has been all over the city on two wheels and knows all about the importance of wearing a helmet, especially in Worcester.

“Though not everyone – myself included – likes to wear helmets, it is really dangerous in this city to not wear one, especially if you are biking downtown,” she said.

While Worcester’s aggressive drivers and lack of bike lanes doesn’t help bikers in the city, Overton says following the rules of traffic can save you a lot of anxiety.

“If you are biking in the road, like you're supposed to, it's important to follow the same rules that you would if you were driving, red lights, crosswalks, etc. If you do this, you're less likely to get hit by cars,” she said.

David Khan at Worcester’s Bicycle Alley said that following simple road biking rules in Worcester can easily help you stay safe.

“Worcester is no different than anywhere else. It’s bike friendly in some respects but there are no bike lanes – bike routes here but not lanes,” he said. “Most people get nervous riding in traffic. You have to pay attention and obey the laws.”

Still, Overton says there are some difficulties biking in Worcester.

“A lot of motor vehicle drivers don't know that it is illegal for bikers to use the sidewalks, and therefore they think you are an idiot when you bike in the road. Worcester definitely does not lack aggressive drivers, so this can be pretty nerve wracking.”

Not a Scare Tactic

Kahn said he doesn’t like to scare anyone, but the importance of wearing a helmet can’t be stressed enough.

The bike store does all it can to encourage everyone to wear a helmet.

“It’s a big issue,” Kahn said. “We don’t like to scare people, but it’s really the one thing we do push. With adults you can’t really force them to wear a helmet, but with kids there is a state law that makes it easier to make sure they’re protected.”

Borer of UMass Medical says that it’s usually not the long distance, professional bikers, but the kids during the summer who are failing to take precautions.

“When we talk to the little kids, we talk about how if you fall over your handlebars, you can fix your arm or leg, but you can’t fix your brain,” she said. “Do they get it? We don’t know. We hand them out but can’t check if they’re wearing them.”

UMass Memorial has safety tips and information on their website to make sure you know the best way to prevent injury and secure your helmet. You can also check out their video on the topic.

“Your helmet should be placed firmly on your head, and the straps should form triangles around your ears. The triangles should end just under your earlobes, and the buckle should connect securely under your chin,” Overton said. “If the straps fit correctly, and the helmet is the right size for your head, you should not be able to move your helmet back and forth, or side to side, while it is buckled.”

Make sure you practice safe biking this season and set a good example for any youth you’re riding with.

 

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