Portales prepares for onset of helmet law

By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer

Skid lids will become mandatory for juvenile bikers and skaters soon, as the Child Helmet Safety Act takes effect July 1 in New Mexico.
The law states that anyone under the age of 18 must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, tricycle, inline and roller skates, skateboard or scooter on public property. It would include those riding on streets, sidewalks, skateparks and other public property.

“This is the most comprehensive law in the United States,” said John McPhee, child injury prevention coordinator for the New Mexico Department of Health.

Written into the law is the fact that children riding a tricycle are also required to wear a helmet. Something that is not covered in laws that are in effect for 21 states and the District of Columbia, McPhee said.

According to McPhee, data shows that pediatricians report that children in the 2- to 5-year-old age range sustain head injuries due to tricycles. By enforcing helmet use early in life, many of these injuries could be prevented.

Locally, the Portales Recreation Center has been preparing to abide by the law once it becomes effective. The sign at the skatepark has been changed giving details on the law. The recreation center staff has also applied for assistance from Wal-Mart to purchase helmets for kids who do not have one, said Johnny Ledbetter, Portales recreation center director.

“Those who don’t have helmets can leave collateral and use a helmet at the skatepark from the rec. center,” Ledbetter said.

During hours of operation at the recreation center, Ledbetter and his staff will monitor children who are using the skatepark to ensure that they are wearing the helmets.

“We plan on enforcing the law. We’re going to approach it in a positive manner,” Ledbetter said.

The law will be enforced throughout the city of Portales. Officers on routine patrol will be on the lookout for children not wearing their helmets. If a child is caught not wearing a helmet, parents can expect to be fined $10 for the offense, said Capt. Lonnie Berry, spokesperson for the Portales Police Department.

“It will take a few weeks to get used to it. We will have to work with everyone to make sure they understand,” Berry said.

At a glance

• The United States has 85 million bicycle riders.

• 784 bicyclists died on US roads during 2005, 92 percent (720) died in crashes with motor vehicles.

• Approximately 540,000 cyclists visit emergency rooms with injuries. Of those, about 67,000 have head injuries and 27,000 have injuries severe enough to be hospitalized.

• One in eight cyclists with reported injuries have brain injuries.

• Two-thirds of deaths are from traumatic brain injuries.

Source: Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute