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EDITORIAL: In praise of bike helmets, HKQ giveaway

Times Leader - 7/6/2018

July 06--You've heard the jokes and seen the memes.

Cranky people over a certain age like to talk about all the wild and unsupervised things they did as kids, and how "we turned out just fine."

Remember the kid who turned up for two-wheeled adventures wearing a bike helmet? He or she would quickly have gotten left behind by the rest of the group, who were obviously too cool to leave the house looking like such a space cadet.

Maybe modern life has been a buzz-kill for the simple joys of childhood many of us once knew. Maybe most of us were also just extremely lucky.

While it's easy to bemoan government overreach, we have no quibbles with Pennsylvania's law requiring anyone under the age of 12 to wear a helmet while riding a bike. It is one of 21 states with laws pertaining to helmet use by children.

Research cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that when properly used, helmets significantly reduce the number of severe and fatal head injuries to children involved in bicycle crashes.

With that in mind, we want to offer our praise and gratitude to Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn Foundation for Children's Advocacy -- also known as HKQ Kids -- and the Luzerne Foundation, who have teamed up on a bicycle helmet giveaway program for children 12 and under. This year marked the 11th consecutive giveaway.

Special praise is due to Sue Greenfield, office manager and event organizer who made sure Wednesday's event at Kirby Park ran smoothly. About 40 other employees also participated.

"We're committed to giving back to the community," Greenfield said. "And helmets are the law."

For those who were not able to take advantage of Wednesday's event, HKQ is offering two additional events today: From 8 a.m. to noon at the firm's offices, 600 Third Ave., Kingston, or on Courthouse Square, Scranton, from 4 to 7 p.m.

All helmets distributed by HKQ Kids meet U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission standards and are equipped with a user's manual and CPSC label of certification.

State law might only require helmets below age 12, but PennDOT "strongly recommends that all bicyclists wear helmets whenever they ride."

Agreed, for the same reasons: Bicycle helmets reduce the risk of head and brain injuries in the event of a crash, the CDC points out.

Should they be mandatory for all? That is a controversial question.

Currently, no state requires adult use. Maryland tested the waters a few years ago and backed down amid opposition. Among those who blasted the proposal were bike advocates, as the Washington Post reported at the time.

Some have argued that helmet laws for adults would deter many from riding at all, and that they can cause a false sense of security and invulnerability leading to even riskier behaviors. One argument, cited by riders themselves, is that there is safety in numbers, and anything that leads to fewer bike riders would result in less safety for those who remain, as motorists would become less accustomed to sharing the road and be less careful.

Still other critics have suggested that the effectiveness of helmets in preventing injuries has been overestimated and requires further study; you'll notice we did not cite any specific percentages, as research for this editorial revealed enough variance to give us pause.

We agree with those riders who have said that legislating adult helmet use may lead to unintended negative consequences, and that educating people about their benefits is probably the better way.

That said, just wear it. -- Times Leader


(c)2018 The Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)

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