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Oklahoma Safe Kids Coalition
PO Box 26307
Oklahoma City, OK 73126-9983
(405) 271-5695 Fax (405) 271-2974

FOR RELEASE: May 2, 2002
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

New Study Shows Kids Overconfident on Wheels

New research unveiled today by the National SAFE KIDS Campaign shows that 63 percent of “tweens” (ages 8 to 12) do not think they could suffer a brain injury while riding on wheels, yet the reality is nearly half (47 percent) of children hospitalized for bike-related injuries suffer from a traumatic brain injury.

The National SAFE KIDS Campaign, founding sponsor Johnson & Johnson, and local coalitions such as the Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition, a program of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, are teaming up to send a simple message to parents and kids when on any kind of wheels - Use Your Head. Wear a Helmet!

Brain injury is the leading killer and disabler of children,” says Dr. C. Everett Koop, Sc.D., former U.S. Surgeon General and chairman of the National SAFE KIDS Campaign. “Damage to the brain from an external blow can affect one’s ability to walk, talk and think. The consequences can be devastating and permanent and change a child’s life - suddenly and forever.”

While more than three-quarters of tweens surveyed said that a brain injury could occur as a result of a wheel-related crash and 65 percent of kids knew that the effects of a brain injury could last a lifetime, less than half said they wear a helmet on every bike ride. Less than a third wore a helmet while riding scooters, skateboards or inline skates. Only 9 percent said that it is likely they will suffer a brain injury while riding.

The results released today, coincide with the kickoff of National SAFE KIDS Week which runs May 4 - 11, 2002. The campaign is a nationwide initiative that includes a donation of up to $1 million worth of Bell helmets to kids in need across the nation by Johnson & Johnson and Bell Sports.

In a major new study on traumatic brain injury and wheel-related sports, the National SAFE KIDS Campaign found that nearly 51 percent of children ages 10 to 14 who suffered a serious bike injury were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, compared to 44 percent of children ages 5 to 9 and 38 percent of children ages 4 and under.

“Brain injuries are more common among older children because these kids are less likely to wear their helmets and take more chances.” adds Dr. Koop. “SAFE KIDS urges parents and kids to wear a helmet on any wheel-related activity. It can reduce the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent.”

Nearly 28 million children ride bicycles and the popularity of scooters, skateboards and inline skates has been skyrocketing. SAFE KIDS examined data from the National Pediatric Trauma Registry (from 1994 to 2001) to look closely at the number of children who have suffered a traumatic brain injury. In addition, SAFE KIDS commissioned a national survey with tweens to look at their attitudes and behaviors toward helmet use during all wheel-related activity. The findings are documented in a report titled: A National Study of Traumatic Brain Injury and Wheel-Related Sports.

Why don’t teens wear helmets?

  • Nearly half of kids (47 percent) reported that they “only ride near home” as a reason for not always wearing a helmet.
  • Reasons children cited for not wearing a helmet included: “Helmets are uncomfortable” (43 percent); “I don’t think I need to wear a helmet for all of these activities” (32 percent); “I am older now and in more control when I ride” (29 percent); “I don’t feel cool wearing a helmet” (28 percent); and “My parents don’t make me” (27 percent).

What would it take to get kids to wear helmets?

  • The majority of tweens (54 percent) said that knowing someone who was badly hurt while not wearing a helmet would convince them to wear one on every ride.
  • Many tweens admitted they would wear a helmet if it were a parental rule (53 percent) or if it were a law in their state (49 percent).

“I’m faced with the awful task of telling parents that their child suffered brain damage that could have been so easily prevented with a helmet,” says Dr. Martin Eichelberger, director of trauma and burn services, Children’s National Medical Center. “Most parents and kids don’t understand just how fragile the brain is, and that a fall from as little as 2 feet and at surprisingly low speeds can be so serious. No parent or child should have to learn such a painful lesson.”

In addition to the donation of helmets by Johnson & Johnson and Bell Sports, more than 300 state and local coalitions across the country will participate in SAFE KIDS Week by hosting thousands of family safety fairs and other community events that focus on wheel-related safety and protecting the brain. Parents, caregivers and kids will have the opportunity to learn about key risks to children through hands-on training, helmet fitting and interactive displays and activities.

Johnson & Johnson is also supporting SAFE KIDS Week with a national advertising campaign in partnership with Nickelodeon, and with the distribution of safety tips through 60,000 retail stores and to 45 million households across the nation.

For more information or for a copy of the SAFE KIDS/Johnson & Johnson national report, contact the National SAFE KIDS Campaign at (202) 662-0600 or visit www.safekids.org.


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