Follow-up on question about Bike Helmets

| 19 Comments

Yesterday, a reader posted the following comment about bike helmets:

 

"I would really like you to do a piece on the amount of children under 17 who are riding bicycles without helmets, and the fact that the police are not enforcing the law. I see children riding around Metuchen all the time without helmets. I have even seen police cars riding past them and not doing anything. Where is the enforcement?"

 

We contacted the police department and here's what they said:

 

The offense is chargeable with a $25 fine for the first offense and $100 for every offense there after.  The law falls under Title 39, which is the motor vehicle code, and the summons would be issued to the parent or guardian.
 
For the most part, officers try to utilize discretion with kids and educate them to the law rather than enforce the law and issue a summons.  This is especially the case for resident's children who are not breaking any rule other than the helmet law.  Our traffic officer has stopped kids for not wearing a helmet but has not issued any summonses as a result.


What's your opinion?  My guess is that as many people would complain about the police issuing violations and being charged fines as might for police just issuing warnings. Who is responsible for children wearing helmets?  Parents or the Police?

19 Comments

Parents at some point lose control over their kids every action, like it or not. There's just a point where kids will do what they want to do when mommy and daddy aren't around. It's called the teenage years. The best defense is trying to arm them with good information when they're young, hope some of it sticks, and pray for good info. from lots of influential sources -- not just parents who kids, just by human nature, stop listening to for a few years until they suddenly wake up in their 20s and see their parents as wise again. When they are teens, they put more stock in what their peers, teachers, coaches and others, even other grownups, have to say. Maybe just like DARE and safe driving programs, there should be "keep safe" programs in schools.

This is something I feel strongly about and I am glad that someone raised the issue. Had I not had a helmet on when I was riding my bicycle in Queens, NY, I am convinced I would not have survived the fall, as my bike hit a pothole and I went flying over the handlebars landing on my head. A law, however, should not have to be passed to get people to use helmets, it is common sense, the same as seat belt use. However, since there is a law, either enforce it, or get rid of it and let the parents decide how to parent their children.

So sorry to hear that Joni. Seems like people hear these stories and then think, well, it won't happen to me, I'm a good rider (or roller skater or skateboarder or whatever). And off they go without their helmet.

When I was seven, I lost my best friend, my twin brother, my wombmate -- the other half who completed me -- to a head injury. A friendly, outgoing little guy, his personality changed radically after he flipped head over handlebars while riding his bike downhill on our street. He was in a coma for days and hospitalized for over a month. After the accident, he changed so radically it was as if he was another person altogether. We had been inseparable before; after the accident, we were never close again.

It's too bad they didn't encourage bike helmets back then. They do now, and when I see people riding without them, I always think of my brother and wonder if people really know how serious and lifelong the consequences can be just because they want to avoid "helmet hair." Recently Natasha Richardson died on the "bunny slope" at a ski resort. It was a tragedy in so many ways. Sadly, I wonder if wearing a helmet would have made all the difference in the world.

Tickets from the police may not be the answer. But a public service campaign with stories from survivors--or the bereaved-- might be just the right kind of ticket needed.

When I was seven, I lost my best friend, my twin brother, my wombmate -- the other half who completed me -- to a head injury. A friendly, outgoing little guy, his personality changed radically after he flipped head over handlebars while riding his bike downhill on our street. He was in a coma for days and hospitalized for over a month. After the accident, he changed so radically it was as if he was another person altogether. We had been inseparable before; after the accident, we were never close again.

It's too bad they didn't encourage bike helmets back then. They do now, and when I see people riding without them, I always think of my brother and wonder if people really know how serious and lifelong the consequences can be just because they want to avoid "helmet hair." Recently Natasha Richardson died on the "bunny slope" at a ski resort. It was a tragedy in so many ways. Sadly, I wonder if wearing a helmet would have made all the difference in the world.

Tickets from the police may not be the answer. But a public service campaign with stories from survivors--or the bereaved-- might be just the right kind of ticket needed.

I like the idea of parents taking responsibility for "their" kids. Check on them and if you see them without a helmet, once, take the bike.

I like the idea of cops giving out free tickets for ice cream as an incentive for kids to wear bike helmets; I hate the idea of cops giving kids (or anyone) tickets for not wearing bicycle helmets.

I said public safety, not health.

But just because legislating against some health dangers would be impractical, doesn't mean they shouldn't legislate against any. You pay sales tax on candy bars but not on apples.

But, say, there's an interesting motivation to stay thin - a fat tax. Every year you have to go down for a weigh in a pay a tax per pound. Have a minimum per person tax to avoid encouraging anorexia.

Good idea - sometimes the carrot works better than the stick.

a few years ago the police gave out *tickets* for free ice cream to kids wearing their helmets. My child got one. It was a cute idea and she still remembers it.

Being fat is bad for public health, should we ban that? If the government's job is to protect health, they should ban cigarettes, not just profit off its taxes.

Its called personal responsibility. That is what America was founded upon. America is supposed to be the land of equal opportunity, it has become the land of equal results. Sad really.

They make motorcycle riders wear helmets. The law should include all bicycle riders, not just kids.

One of government's roles is public safety, isn't it?

Why does the government care if the kids wear helmets anyway? Isn't it the parent's choice to decide whether or not their kids wear helmets when they ride bikes?

Is the next law going to be a $25 fine for having your shoes untied? Or perhaps a $50 fine for running with scissors? I got it, mandatory community service for talking with food in your mouth.

Of course the parents are responsible. We should not rely on the government to do the job that we should be doing.

Oh so true! They are awful, but I wear mine anyway. Rather be a live dork than "cool" and dead. An acquaintance from college left a wife and three small children behind because he was too vain to wear his helment when roller blading. I bet those kids would rather have had a live dorky dad.

Take a look at the bike riders in the Memorial Day parade - most of the adults are not wearing helmets. Probably the same people who spend their kids' childhood parking next to the no parking signs by the school or park and speeding to ball games, then wonder why their teenagers are bad drivers.

If parents don't wear their own helmets, they won't drive the point home to kids that they need to wear theirs. Sure, we feel like dorks wearing them, but who cares? You are your child's main role model so accept it and be a good one.

The parents are ultimately responsible for the safety of their child. It's not just about buying a helmet for the kid. The helmet should fit the child's head properly and know why the helmet is necessary. We went to a bike shop that made my child understand the rules of the road, including use of the helmet, and had the child/parent sign-off that they understood the risks of injury.

The parents are responsible to buy a helmet and tell the kid to wear it, but that doesn't mean the kid will keep it on once they are out of sight. I've seen kids riding with the helmet hanging on the handlebars. I've seen kids I know without helmets, and I let the parents know. Some say thank you, others tell you to mind your own business.

But, now that it's a law, the police are responsible for enforcing it, or at least educating people about it. Do they keep track of the names of the kids who get warnings? If they do, how do they know if the kids are giving them the right names? (Story in the paper yesterday about girls who gave false names to the police when picked up for underage drinking, and these were girls old enough to have driver's licenses.) Do they tell the parents they caught the kid without a helmet?

When I was growing up we went down to town hall and registered our bikes and were given a safety inspection and a bicycle license sticker for our bikes. Our bikes' serial numbers were kept on record by the police. I think it was meant to discourage bicycle thefts, but it could be used again to encourage safety.

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  • Anonymous: Parents at some point lose control over their kids every read more
  • SPTaylor: This is something I feel strongly about and I am read more
  • Anonymous: So sorry to hear that Joni. Seems like people hear read more
  • Joni Scanlon: When I was seven, I lost my best friend, my read more
  • Joni Scanlon: When I was seven, I lost my best friend, my read more
  • Anonymous: I like the idea of parents taking responsibility for "their" read more
  • Matthew: I like the idea of cops giving out free tickets read more
  • Anonymous: I said public safety, not health. But just because legislating read more
  • Anonymous: Good idea - sometimes the carrot works better than the read more
  • Anonymous: a few years ago the police gave out *tickets* for read more

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