Helmet Law Isn't About Being 'Cool'

* This, the first week of school, is an ideal time for The Times to publish an article ("Trying On a Helmet Law" Sept. 10) about the common-sense notion of having our children wear helmets when riding their bikes to and from school; my initial reaction while scanning the paper was most positive. Then I looked more closely at the photo of the helmetless boy, and at the photo where the helmet has been attached to the bike rather than to the child, and I was furious. Reading the article didn't make me any happier.

I am the mother of a 12-year-old boy who, like most, needs to feel that he is "cool" in the eyes of his friends. I love my son dearly; his feelings matter very much to me. I am also a registered nurse who has worked in pediatrics; I have seen what kids who don't wear helmets can look like when they are in an accident. I have held their moms and dads as they cried.

My son wears a helmet. He is no different than the children quoted on the first page of your article; he thinks he looks totally "uncool." He has no choice, but he does have the ability to say that his dumb mom makes him do it. Kids understand that reasoning!

I am appalled that you chose to wait until the end of the article, on a back page, to address the plain, common-sense reasoning of Dr. Phyllis Agran, who supports the use of helmets.

You see, it's really very simple. When my son was a baby I didn't let him play with fire regardless of how fascinating it looked. Now I don't allow him to ride his bike without a helmet. It's the same thing, really. Protecting our children from avoidable danger is just part of a parent's job. Period.

BARBARA M. MCDONOUGH, RN

Costa Mesa

* I was distressed with your article entitled "Trying On a Helmet Law." Although you did put in some information about the serious injuries caused by bicycle accidents, the gist of the article seemed to be that kids don't want the law, and enforcing it would be almost hopeless. The article also focused on children losing their mode of independent transportation, stating they ride to school, friends or around their local cul-de-sac. Accidents happen to and from school and friends' houses and in the local cul-de-sac.

We are the adults; we know, or should know, the statistics. Just because something is considered "uncool" should give no weight in a decision to help prevent children from being killed or suffering disability resulting from bicycle crashes when the use of a helmet could have prevented serious injury. Statistics show that universal use of helmets could prevent one death every day and one head injury every four minutes in our country. People need to relate those figures to themselves. That death or head injury could easily be their child, grandchild, niece, nephew, sister or brother.

The article mentioned that dozens of schools have instituted policies requiring students to wear helmets when they ride to school, and that some children had their parents sign waivers. What you did not mention is that on Feb. 16, a child was struck by a car on her way home from school, and received a skull fracture. Her school (in the Fountain Valley School District) required her to wear a bicycle helmet, but her parents had signed a waiver. It's time to get some legislation enforced and education of both parents and children. Articles stressing the "uncool" idea sure don't help.

DIANNE MCCAIN

Santa Ana

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