From the CSCC Bent Fork Editors

Sharon Boyd & Dale Campbell

By Patricia Harvey

Reprinted with permission of the author.  The article first appeared in the 18 May printing of the Woodmen Edition.
http://www.waltpub.com/papers/we/wood%205-18-12.pdf

Briargate mom Becky Wyzykowski laid down the law when her son Brock learned to ride a bike. She
made him wear a helmet. “If you instill the safety factor at a young age, they’re more likely to accept it,” she said.

According to Safe Kids Colorado, wearing a helmet decreases the risk of severe brain damage by 88 percent. Modern helmets cost less, are more comfortable, and lighter weight than ever before. So why aren’t more kids wearing them – not just on their bikes, but on skateboards, inline skates and
scooters?

“As soon as they turn the corner, they take them off,” said Wyzykowski.

Fire and Life Safety Educator Jane Zook combats the problem every time she walks into a second grade classroom to present Safety Factor ², an outreach of the Colorado Springs Fire Department. This year Zook delivered the injury prevention demonstration at 12 of District-20’s 21 elementary
schools, most recently The Classical Academy East, where 84 students gathered to hear the message. “The bulk of it is, always wear your helmet,” she said.

Zook teaches kids about the brain and how it’s connected to the spinal column. She puts a helmet on a model of the skull, so kids can see how it protects what’s inside. Next, she compares a raw
egg to the human brain. The “egg-speriment” involves putting a tiny helmet on a raw egg. A child stands on a chair and drops it. The kids love it, she said. “The egg does not crack.”  What happens when they drop a raw egg without a helmet? It’s in a baggie, so least no one has to clean it up, she said.

The third part of the program is the helmet demonstration – putting a real helmet on a real kid.
Why the emphasis on second graders? It’s a pivotal time, said Zook. “In second grade, they want to be helpers and can understand information and make changes in their own lives, yet are not
jaded.”

At city skateboard parks, only 10% of the kids are wearing a helmet at any given time, said Zook.
“Parents are where the buck stops. They have to be willing to say ‘yes’ to ‘no.’”

After hearing her Safety Factor ² message, second graders get to take home a 40% off coupon from Mick Ponsor’s Woodmen area cycle shop. “A lot of kids are not wearing helmets because of the cost,” Ponsor said. “Rather than make money, I’d rather have kids out riding safely.”

Ponsor’s four-year old son has worn a helmet since his first bike ride. “The whole thing is to get it  into their head early. It’s not about looking cool. It’s all about safety,” he said.

Not only is it important for kids to have a helmet on their head, it has to fit properly. While older  helmets didn’t have much adjustability, Ponsor said newer styles are different. They’re lighter
weight, better ventilated, and better fitting.

To fit a child’s helmet, use this easy “Fit Test” from Safe Kids Colorado. Remember: eyes, ears, mouth. Eyes: Position the helmet on the child’s head. When he looks up, he should see the bottom
rim. Ears: Make sure the straps form a “V” under the ears when buckled. Straps should be snug but comfortable. Mouth: Have the child open his mouth as wide as he can. Does the helmet hug his head? If not, adjust the straps.

What’s the secret to getting a kid to wear a helmet? Safe Kids Colorado says to wear one yourself. Have kids wear a helmet on their very first tricycle, bicycle (skateboard or scooter) to make it a habit. Establish the rule: no helmet, no bike (skateboard, scooter, rollerblades, etc.). Let your child pick out
their helmet so they are more likely to wear one.

Something that parents may not know is that helmets periodically need to be replaced. The foam will harden, said Dale Campbell of the Colorado Springs Cycling Club. Another reason to replace a helmet is after a child has had a fall, because it loses its ability to absorb shock.

Signs may encourage kids to wear a helmet, but it’s up to parents to enforce it, said Zook. “Whether riding down Pikes Peak or down a cul de sac, kids need to wear a helmet.”

With 118 miles of urban bike trails, and 61 miles of unpaved mountain bike trails, Colorado Springs is a “silver ranked” Bicycle Friendly Community. For more family bike-riding resources contact the Colorado Springs Cycling Club, www.bikesprings.org  Learn safe biking rules at www.safekidscolorado.org .  Bring the joy of owning a new bike to a deserving child by contacting www.kidsonbikes.net .

Contact the writer at patricia.eharvey@yahoo.com

The Bent Fork Chronicles - Vol 5 Issue 3, 1 June 2012

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