Learning to ride a bicycle is an integral part of childhood, and accidents are probably going to happen, but head injuries do not have to be part of this sacred rite of passage.
With that in mind, Kentucky State Representative Joni Jenkins (D – Louisville) recently introduced what she calls a “common sense” bicycle helmet bill aimed at preventing childhood traumatic brain injuries due to bicycle accidents, which is recognized as the 4th leading cause of traumatic brain injuries in Kentucky for children ages 5 to 14 years old.
Kentucky has no law in place requiring helmet use by children or adults. Kentucky House Bill 254, nicknamed “T. J.’s Bill” after the boy for whom the bill was sponsored, would require children under the age of 12 to wear a bicycle helmet will riding on public roads and in public parks.
T. J. Floyd was only 8 years old when he suffered a traumatic brain injury after running into the back of brother’s bike, flipping over his handlebars, and landing head-first on the concrete. T. J. was not wearing a bicycle helmet. Now 13-years old, T. J. and his family deal daily with the effects of his permanent, traumatic brain injury.
The bill’s purpose is to save lives and money by helping to prevent traumatic brain injury, or “TBI”, defined by the Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky (BIAK) as damage caused by a blow or jolts to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain, whereas concussions are deemed more of a mild brain injury.
Bicycle helmets help protect the brain and minimize the level of injury in the event of a crash by absorbing the initial impact of the accident. Doctors estimate that helmets are 85-88% effective in reducing the effects of TBI, which in turn, reduces healthcare costs. As Rep. Jenkins bluntly explained, “An $8-$10 bike helmet can save millions of dollars in healthcare costs.”
The bill proposes a $25 fine if a child under 12 years of age is not wearing a bicycle helmet on public roads and paths, but in lieu of paying the fine, first-time offenders can show proof of purchase of a bicycle helmet, and have the charges dismissed.
Opponents of the bill believe it infringes on personal freedom and argue that the government has no right to tell people, even children, they must wear a bicycle helmet.
The Becker Law Office supports this bill and the use of bicycle helmets by all bicycle riders, but especially children whose brains are still developing. We are committed to bicycle safety and donate bicycle helmets each year the Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky (BIAK), a support group and information network for those affected by traumatic brain injury, their families and caregivers.
To learn more about Kentucky traumatic brain injury statistics, see our recent blog article of the same title:
Don’t be a statistic. Use your head and always wear a bicycle helmet!