Safety on Wheels


The wind in your hair, that wonderful thrill as you freewheel down a long hill, and most of all the freedom—a sense of escape and exploration…


Who doesn’t remember the simple joys of riding a bike as a kid? For many it was a trip on a bike to the library, park or school that marked the first time they explored the big, wild world on their own. With that still being a rite of passage for families in Santa Barbara, what is one of the most important instructions a parent can send along with the library card, lunch pack, sunscreen and “look both ways?” Wear your helmet!


What stops kids from doing so? In her experience doing helmet education at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, and in schools in the community, Cottage Injury Prevention Coordinator Janeanne Morgan says that peer pressure plays a big role. “I have conducted surveys at local



schools that show that when multiple students at a school think it’s cool to wear a helmet, more students are compliant.”


Janeanne’s surveys also show that parental involvement is vital to helmet safety.


A Loyola School of Medicine study conducted in 2005 revealed that bicycling is second only to basketball in producing ED visits, with football third. Don’t let this steal the joy of cycling from kids, but do be sure they take the right precautions. The non-profit organization Safe Kids reports that universal use of bicycle helmets by children ages 4–15 could prevent 135–155 deaths, 39,000–45,000 head injuries, and 18,000–55,000 scalp and face injuries annually.



It’s the law

Children in California must wear helmets when riding a bike, skating, skateboarding or riding a scooter (non-motorized or motorized). Don’t forget the importance of helmets to avoid injury while skiing and snow boarding, too.


Obtain safe, cool, multisport helmets for under $10 at

Cottage Trauma Program Manager Kelly Kam adds an important personal perspective. “Working in the ED I keep seeing young kids with significant facial trauma. I took this into account when I purchased my son’s helmet, opting for a full-faced version. Within minutes of riding his new bike, he was ejected over the handlebar and cracked the protective facial bar on the helmet. He kept the helmet as a memento, but also still has an intact set of teeth.”


Let your child take that ride, freewheeling down the hill and exploring the local landscape, but please forgo the ‘wind in the hair’ feeling for a correctly fitting helmet on the head.


Safety Facts and Tips
 •     It’s a good idea to get your child’s bike helmet professionally fitted. A poorly fitting helmet will not provide the best level of protection.  Read more about helmet fit and safety on our Trauma Services Injury Prevention page >>
 •     The National Institutes of Health report that children under 15 account for 53 percent of nonfatal bicycle injuries. Nearly 690 children are injured daily due to bicycle-related crashes.
 •     While more than 90 percent of cyclists killed between 1994 and 2006 were not wearing helmets, there were only 676 bicycling deaths in 2005 compared to 485,000 reported ER visits in that year—evidence that helmets are especially important when it comes to preventing both death and injury.
 •     25 percent of bike accidents are alcohol-related, i.e. ‘DUI’ cyclists. Just as with driving a car, riding a bike while drunk is illegal.
 •     More than 70 percent of children ages 5–14 ride a bicycle regularly. National estimates report that bicycle helmet use among child bicyclists ranges from 15–25 percent. Apart from the automobile, bicycles are tied to more childhood injuries than any other consumer product. (




Return to Fall 2010 Cottage Magazine