Bike riders under age 16 would be required to wear proper-fitting helmets or their parents could face fines of up to $100, under a bill sponsored by state Sen. Shannon Jones, R-Clearcreek Twp.
The child safety legislation aims to reduce traumatic brain injuries suffered by children and the related health care expenses, said Jones. She called it a “smart investment,” citing a statistic that a $10 helmet can save $41 per child in health care costs.
Jones, who has long advocated for child safety laws, acknowledged that a mandatory bike helmet law will meet opposition from lawmakers who believe such decisions should be left up to parents.
“I suspect it’ll be a long education process but I think the facts are on our side,” said Jones, who authored Ohio’s law requiring children ages 4- to 8-years-old to ride in car booster seats that took effect in April 2010.
While 70 percent of children ages 5 to 14 ride bikes, just 10 to 20 percent wear helmets and across the country each year 50,000 children are seen in emergency rooms for serious injuries incurred while riding a bike without a helmet, Jones said.
Ohio cities including Kettering, Dayton, Waynesville and Centerville have local bike helmet ordinances on the books and 22 states have statewide helmet laws, according to Helmet.org, a bicycle safety advocacy group. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that bicycle-related head injury rates among kids dropped up to 45 percent following adoption of bike helmet laws in other states.
Jones’ bike helmet bill calls for:
Children under age 16 biking on roads, paths, parkland or sidewalks would be required to wear an approved helmet that is a good fit and fastened securely. The regulations would apply to bike passengers under 16;
Bike rental shops would be required to explain the regulations and provide helmets for customers under 16 — self-service kiosks are exempt;
Guardians of violators can be fined up to $25 on the first offense and up to $100 on subsequent offenses;
Courts may waive the fines with proof that the offender obtained a helmet and intends to use it; and
Collected fines will go to a bicycle safety fund, which will use some of the money to purchase and distribute helmets to low-income families.