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FOR RELEASE: March 2, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Local Laws and Education Can Improve Bicycle Helmet Safety Results

Many local cities and towns are unaware of the existence of a concurrent resolution (HCR 1003) passed in February 1997 by the Oklahoma Legislature, which encourages local governments to enact ordinances requiring bicycle helmet use for persons less that 16 years old. In Oklahoma, bicycle crashes are a leading cause of brain injuries among children ages 5 through 14 years.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, some early evidence indicates that legislation combined with education can substantially increase bicycle helmet safety use. In Howard County, Maryland, bike helmet use rose from 11 percent to 37 percent when education and legislation were combined. Following the passage of a law requiring helmet use in Victoria, Australia, bicycle helmet use increased from 26 percent to 80 percent.

"As HCR 1003 begins to receive more public attention, we hope municipalities will look at similar ways to improve the public's health and safety through early intervention and prevention efforts," said J.R. Nida, M.D., commissioner of health. "By increasing bicycle helmet use, the risk of serious or fatal traumatic brain injuries can be reduced by almost 90 percent." Nida said traumatic brain injuries are the leading cause of death among children and young adults in Oklahoma. And after the first year of life, traumatic brain injuries result in more childhood deaths than all diseases combined. "Persons who suffer from severe brain injuries have persistent physical and behavioral problems that may require months or years of rehabilitation," he said. "The consistent use of bicycle helmets by our youngsters, as well as adult cyclists, could prevent many tragic outcomes of bicycle crashes."

The resolution states that municipalities can pass ordinances that apply to:

  • wearing a good-fitting, safety helmet while bicycling on public rights-of-way;
  • requiring wearing helmets when persons 16 years or younger rent a bicycle;
  • and/or requiring penalties, such as fines of $25 or less for violations of local ordinances.

The resolution also indicates that fines could be waived for first-time offenders who purchase a helmet that meets ordinance requirements between the date of the offense and the date of the trial.

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