According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some one million people naionwide receive a traumatic brain injury each year. These brain or skull injuries are typically caused by an external force such as an impact in an accident. Unlike cuts or wounds that heal, brain injuries can often be permanent and disabling.
The New York State Department of Health reports that "each year, traumatic brain injuries result in the death of over 2,000 New York State residents and the hospitalization of 14,000 New Yorkers." According to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly 50 percent of children 14 and under hospitalized for bicycle-related injuries are diagnosed with a brain injury.
With many people heading outside to ride bicycles, and in honor of March as Brain Injury Awareness Month, I'd like to emphasize that wearing helmets is an extremely good idea. Prevention is the best medicine, and wearing a helmet to protect your head from the impact of hitting the pavement or the hood of a car is a person's best defense against head injury.
The safety benefits of wearing a helmet are not limited to children. Anyone participating in activities such as cycling, in-line skating, skateboarding or scooter riding, can benefit from helmet use. Medical professionals tell us that, when a person's head hits the ground during a fall, the skull stops short but the brain continues to travel, crashing against the skull. Helmets are designed to absorb the shock of such an impact to prevent or reduce "the crash" between the brain and the skill. Another important benefit of bicycle helmets is the high visibility that the bright colors and reflective tape or striping provide for oncoming motor vehicle drivers.
New York State helmet laws require children under the age of 14 to wear safety helmets while riding a bicycle, in-line skating, riding scooters and using skate boards. Under the measure, law enforcement officials are to issue an appearance ticket to parents or guardians who are present when their children are found riding a bicycle/in-line skating/skate boarding/etc. without a safety helmet. Any parent or guardian found in violation of the law faces a maximum fine of $50. However, they can be excused from the violation and paying the fine if proof is provided to the court that they have purchased or rented a safety helmet for their child between the date of the violation and the date of the court appearance or that they were unable to purchase a safety helmet for their child due to economic hardship.
For more information on the State helmet laws, call my office and ask for a free copy of the brochure "Wear a Helmet: Get a Head Start on Safety" at 455-2181 (Albany), 843-2188 (Amsterdam), 762-3733 (Johnstown) or toll-free at (800) 224-5201.