I join Tracy Press op-ed writer Debra Littleton in saluting the North School administration for taking a strong stand on bicycle safety and monitoring the helmet usage of its student bicycle riders. I would challenge other school administrators to do or to continue to do the same.
I realize that although North was spotlighted in a Tracy Press article, many other schools are successfully monitoring and rewarding students for helmet usage. Students, parents and administrators need to understand that mandatory helmet usage is the law in California for those under age 18 and includes scooters, skateboards and in-line skates.
Bicycle safety is not limited to children, although, they do need adult guidance, encouragement and monitoring. Bicycle riders at all skill levels need to strap up and wear a helmet.
Even though not the end-all, be-all of personal safety, it is irrefutable that helmet usage has a huge effect on reducing death and serious injury as a result of bicycle accidents. One study determined that 88 percent of the deaths or head injuries resulting from cycling accidents could have been avoided by the use of a helmet. While other studies pin the number as low as 50 percent, the impact remains the same. To understand the magnitude of this, there are about 67,000 bicycle accident-related head injuries yearly in the United States, and the direct cost of cyclists not using helmets has been estimated at $81 million annually with an additional $2.3 billion in estimated indirect costs. Bicycle helmet usage has both an individual and societal benefit.
Anti-helmet advocates say many bicycle accidents and injuries are caused by plain bad riding on the part of individual riders. This is undoubtedly true. There is an undeniable need for cycling safety and skill education. Still, even the safest and most skilled riders make mistakes. Reference common accidents in events like the Tour de France. There will always be conditions beyond individual control. The one thing that can be controlled is the choice to wear a helmet when riding. Make that choice.
Those looking to learn more about cycling safety and helmet usage should visit the Bike Helmet Safety Institutes Web site: www.bhsi.org.
The directors of the Central Valley Wheelers have joined most every other bike club across the state by requiring helmet usage during club rides. This decision should not be confused with supporting mandatory adult helmet laws, a stand on which Central Valley Wheelers has not taken. And we acknowledge a major cause of bicycle accidents and injuries is poor riding. It is our goal to be significant advocates for local cyclists to include cycling safety education. The need for skill education is equally important, and we hope to answer the call.
We welcome both individual and family memberships and strive to offer fellowship, education and riding opportunities for cyclists of all levels. Come join us.