Youth helmet law intent is awareness, not fines

Youth helmet law intent is awareness, not fines

(WAVE) - Indiana parents could face fines if their kids aren’t wearing helmets when riding bikes, skateboards or scooters on public property.

Those fines could be up to $25, and their bikes or skateboards could be impounded, but a staffer for the Indiana Republican Party, which is sponsoring the measure, said the intent is to promote safety for children and teens, not to fine parents.

Parents whose children have suffered head injuries reached out to Rep. Randy Frye, R-Greensburg. He’s sponsoring the helmet law discussed in a house public safety committee Tuesday. While parents with young children may be more likely to put a helmet on their children, as kids get older, many parents admit they’re not as likely to demand a helmet.

A 2019 University of Michigan survey found despite research that helmets are critical in preventing head injuries, 18 percent of parents said their child doesn’t wear a helmet on a bike, and 50 percent don’t wear a helmet on a skateboard.

From parks to sidewalks, Frye joins many safety advocates who want kids wearing helmets. Jeffersonville Fire Department Sgt. Justin Ames said he’s well aware of the dangers to children.

“(If) somebody falls off their bike and has a head injury ... it’s traumatic for the family, first responders and the child,” he said. Ames, a father of two teens himself, said it’s the reason police and firefighters host helmet giveaways.

Jeffersonville Fire hosted one with well-known attorney Darryl Isaacs, who became a crash victim himself when a driver hit his bike a few years ago. If passed, ticketing for the helmet measure wouldn’t begin until July 2021, and even then, it won’t be required by police.

So what’s the point? Awareness, Ames said. He likened it to seatbelt safety years ago. Once it became law, it became more commonplace to buckle up. The helmet measure would include funding for police and firefighters to give out helmets to children whose parents might not be able to afford them.

Frye relayed a question to the committee he said he was asked: “What if a kid comes up to the firehouse and they want a helmet and they either can’t prove they cannot afford a helmet or they don’t qualify for free or reduced lunch?”

“The answer is, you give them a helmet,” Ames said.

The proposal is still going through some changes to gain more support.

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