Locals like proposed law requiring kids’ bike helmets | SummitDaily.com

Locals like proposed law requiring kids’ bike helmets

Reid Williams

DENVER – Under a bill introduced Monday in the state Legislature, parents could be ticketed if their child is caught riding a bicycle without a helmet.

Senate Bill 204 would make it a minor traffic offense for children 14 or younger to not wear a bike helmet. Parents could be fined $15, but first-time offenders would be let off the hook if they can prove they bought their child a helmet. Bike rental shops also would be required to provide protective headgear for children.

“This isn’t an intrusive mandate here, we’re trying to put helmets on children to reduce injuries,” said Sen. Ed Perlmutter, D-Jefferson County. “The intent isn’t to punish parents, it’s to protect our kids.”

If the bill becomes law, Colorado would join 20 states that require minors to wear helmets while bicycling. In drafting the legislation, Perlmutter cited statistics showing helmets reduce the risk of brain injury, as well as save money on long-term medical costs and protect future earnings and quality of life.

Silverthorne Police Sgt. Mark Hanschmidt said the bill is an excellent idea for kids and would help create awareness of safety issues and cycling. Last summer he said, he dealt with a young man who was in a serious bike accident and cracked his helmet in half when he crashed. Hanschmidt credits the helmet with saving the man’s life.

Silverthorne police officers conduct annual bike safety clinics for area children and give away bikes and helmets. Hanschmidt said the town’s biking police officers always wear helmets because they realize they are role models.

“So, anything we can do to help prevent injuries is a wonderful thing,” he said.

Most bike rental shops in Summit County already require children to wear helmets as a condition of the rental. Chris Hart, partner at Great Adventure in Breckenridge, said staff don’t let kids or adults out the door without a helmet, so the law wouldn’t force them to increase their helmet inventory.

“Generally speaking, I think it’s a good idea,” Hart said. “It’s been proven over and over that helmets save lives. It’s kind of like wearing a seat belt: Everybody does it now. I think it will just become a part of the cycling culture.”

A quick poll of children at the Days Off camp at Summit Middle School Tuesday found most children already wear helmets when biking. Seven-year-old Austin Fessenden said he wears a helmet because it’s cool and so he “doesn’t fall down and crack his head open.” Fessenden said he wears a helmet when he skis, too.

Nine-year-old Reanna Abare wears a helmet when biking, she said, because it keeps her safe. Abare said she has friends who don’t wear a helmet, however.

“They say the helmets are ugly,” Abare said.

Lily Weldon, 5, said she doesn’t wear a helmet because she doesn’t fall down. Weldon said she would wear a helmet if the law required it, “because I follow the rules.”

Experts will give testimony on the bill before the Senate Health, Environment, Children and Families Committee. If approved there, it will move on to the Senate floor for two readings. With enough votes in the Senate, the bill would move through the same process in the state House of Representatives.

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or rwilliams@summitdaily.com.

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