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FOR RELEASE: May 2, 2002
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Health Officials Urge Bicycle Safety

Bicycling is a popular recreational activity and a good source of exercise. Each year, however, more than 400 children, teenagers, and adults in Oklahoma are injured or killed as a result of bicycle crashes. Although the majority of deaths involve collisions with motor vehicles, most serious nonfatal injuries result from falls from the bicycle that do not involve another vehicle. The good news is that there are precautions Oklahomans can take to avoid these injuries.

Bicycle crashes are a leading cause of brain injuries among children 5 to14 years of age in Oklahoma. “Survivors of brain injuries may suffer long-term disabilities or difficulties functioning, “ said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch. “Even after minor brain injuries, it is not uncommon for children and adults to experience ongoing symptoms such as headache, dizziness, reduced memory, irritability, fatigue, inability to concentrate, and emotional instability.”

Bicycle helmets are almost 90 percent effective in preventing serious brain injuries. Wearing a bicycle helmet is a simple solution to preventing a potentially devastating injury. It is also important to wear a helmet when riding scooters as well as skateboarding and in-line skating.

Helmets are lightweight, comfortable, and well ventilated, and are available in many styles and colors. Helmets with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission seal meet federal safety standards. A helmet should fit snugly, but comfortably on the head. It should not rock back and forth or side to side.

In addition to always wearing a helmet, health officials suggest practicing the following safety tips to stay safe on wheels.

Bicycling

  • Obey all traffic and road signals. Children should walk their bicycles across busy intersections.
  • Stop and look left, right and left again before entering a street. Look back and yield to traffic coming from behind before turning left at intersections.
  • Ride in a single file on the side of the road with traffic, not against it. Use a bicycle path or sidewalk whenever possible.
  • Children should never ride at night. Adults riding at night should have reflective material on clothing and bicycles. Bicycles should be equipped with lights and possibly a horn or bell.
  • Participate in bicycle safety workshops, bicycle rodeos, and other community events that teach bicycle safety.

Skateboarding

  • Develop safe skateboarding areas away from pedestrians and motor vehicle traffic.
  • Allow only one person on a skateboard at a time.
  • Do not let children less than 5 years of age use skateboards. Their muscles are not well developed, their centers of gravity are higher, and their judgment is poor.
  • Never let a child ride in the street or hitch a ride from any kind of vehicle.

Scooter

  • Supervise children ages 8 and younger when they ride scooters.
  • Encourage children to ride their scooters on smooth, dry, paved surfaces.
  • Make sure children do not ride barefoot. Shoes with rubber soles provide good traction.
  • Make sure the child knows the scooter’s capabilities, and how to control speed, turn, and stop.
  • Allow only one person on a scooter at a time.
  • Never let children ride scooters in the street or on busy sidewalks.

In-line Skating

  • Take lessons in safe skating techniques.
  • Make sure that skates provide support for ankles.
  • Stretch muscles before and after skating to prevent muscle injury.
  • Watch for potholes, storm grates, oily surfaces, gravel, sand, etc.
  • Do not skate on the street until you are 16 years of age.
  • Wear gloves, wrist guards (the plastic should cover the bottom of your wrist and the palm of your hand) and elbow and kneepads.

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