Helmets: For all ages, at all times
Bicycling has become an important means of transportation for adults and children in Lee County. Helmets are an essential part of being on a bicycle — or any kind of wheels, such as skates, skateboards and scooters; it has been documented that wearing a helmet can save a life.
But, you say, “I don’t need to wear a bicycle helmet; I’m only riding in my community.” Would you rather have a messed-up hairdo or brain damage? Many bicyclists think that just because they’re biking in their own community, it’s not necessary to wear a helmet — they feel they’re invincible.
But crashes happen when least expected, and can occur riding around your home just as often as if you were on a long ride or going to work. There are bumps in the streets — or sidewalks — and an individual, no matter how experienced he or she is, can take a bad tumble. That helmet that wasn’t needed might be the reason the person survives the tumble.
Helmets should not be purchased or obtained just because the adult or child likes the color or shape. They must be fitted to the individual who will be wearing it. It’s also important that the helmet is worn properly; an improperly fitted or worn helmet is like no helmet at all.
Helmets need to be replaced periodically, especially for children as they grow and their heads increase in size. Bicycle helmets have an expiration date, typically five years after date of manufacture, tied to how the materials used in making the helmet can break down over time. Also, be careful in accepting a used helmet — and never purchase a helmet that’s been involved in a crash.
The Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital recommends the following five steps in the proper procedure for fitting and wearing a bicycle helmet:
– The helmet should be level on the head.
– You should be able to place one or two fingers on the forehead between the bottom of the helmet and the eyebrow.
– The front and back straps should be equally tight and meet a “V” just below the ears.
– You should be able to fit one or two fingers between the chin and the chin strap.
– A proper fitting helmet will not move on your head.
A helmet worn at the back of the head won’t protect the bicyclist’s head — and brain; it must cover the front part of the forehead. Also the helmet should not be work over something else, such as a baseball cap.
Motorcyclists in Florida are especially vulnerable to traffic mishaps. That’s why they are required to wear helmets unless they have proof of $10,000 insurance in medical benefits, and they must be 21 years of age, to legally not wear a helmet.
In partnership with other nonprofit organizations, the Injury Prevention Coalition of Lee County promotes safety in all walks of life. The Pilot Club of Fort Myers distributes and fits about 1,000 helmets at children’s safety events each year at no charge. BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders.