I went for a drive today. I did not go very far – just the distance of two subdivisions so that I could drop my son off at a friend’s house. I must have seen at least ten or twelve kids riding bicycles, roller blading and skateboarding. It was a beautiful day so that is not surprising. Sadly, out of those ten or twelve children, only one was wearing a helmet. Even more sadly, I was not surprised because over the past couple of years, it seems that ninety percent of the kids in my community have stopped wearing helmets.
When I was a kid – and probably when you were a kid, too – none of us wore helmets, at least here in the USA. Eventually, however, common sense prevailed and just about everyone, child or adult, started to wear a helmet before engaging in wheeled sports. I don’t know why America stopped putting safety first, but over the past few years, that is what I have seen happen. It runs against everything that we have been taught about the dangers of falling off of a bike or a skateboard or blades without a helmet and, yet, parents still do not force their kids to protect themselves. Just as importantly, parents are not setting good examples by failing to use helmets themselves.
I also observed another disturbing trend today. With every passing week, I continue to see more and more parents allowing their children to sit in the front seat of their cars and to ride without using seatbelts. As every new car’s sun visor reminds us, there is a serious danger to children aged twelve and under who ride in the front seat due to the risk of suffocation if an airbag deploys. Of course, everyone who fails to wear a seatbelt is at far greater risk of suffering a serious injury or death in the event of an accident. Despite these known risks, parents still allow their children to expose themselves to added dangers and fail to set good examples by both following proper safety requirements and enforcing them for all passengers.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers an excellent website with plenty of relevant and, at times disturbing, data regarding bicycle and automobile safety for both children and adults. Everyone should take the time to familiarize themselves with the risks of riding without a helmet, riding without a seatbelt and any of several risks to which children (and adults) can be exposed when traveling on wheels.
There are tremedous costs that can be incurred by not requiring your kids to use proper safety equipment. Injuries that might otherwise be avoided can become significant trauma, resulting in hospitalization, disability, and even death. By taking the right preventive steps, you can avoid the costs associated with hospitalization for major trauma, recovery and therapy costs and, in worst case scenarios, funeral costs. Of course, you may save more than money. You may save the life (or preserve the quality of life) of someone you hold very dear. That should be reason enough.
What do you think? Are American safety laws too restrictive? Do you always obey them when you are riding? Do you make your kids comply? Have you or someone you know ever lost someone or something because of a failure to follow the safety rules of the road? Do you have advice for people who might be reluctant to enforce compliance?