Toronto, Ontario – Children on bicycles, along with in-line skates, skateboards or scooters, should always wear a helmet specific to the vehicle, according to a Safe Kids Week research review. Helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 per cent.

According to Transport Canada, in 2007 alone, over 1,000 children under the age of 15 were injured while riding their bicycles. Traumatic brain injuries account for eight per cent of emergency room visits by cyclists under the age of 19, versus four per cent for skateboarders and in-line skaters, and six per cent of those riding scooters. Other serious injuries include broken bones, facial injuries and serious skin abrasions that require grafts.

“Serious head injuries are most often caused by falls,” said Pamela Fuselli, executive direction of Safe Kids Canada. “Even seemingly minor incidents may cause short- or long-term brain damage. A child’s skull is only one centimetre thick and is easily fractured by a fall, even at slower speeds. When kids are on wheels, wearing a helmet can save their lives.”

According to a new poll, more than 35 per cent of parents said they are not concerned about their child having a cycling-related injury. However, children are most likely to be hurt when they are beginners and just learning to ride; when they ride or skate near cars and traffic; when they do not use safety gear; and when they go too fast or try stunts.

Of those polled, 73 per cent of parents said their children always wear helmets when cycling, but 31 per cent of parents do not wear one when they cycle. “One of the best ways to get kids to wear their helmets when riding or gliding is by setting a good example,” Fuselli said. “Children who see their parents wearing helmets while cycling or gliding are more likely to wear their own helmets on a regular basis.”

An appropriate helmet is also important. According to ThinkFirst Canada, a national non-profit organization dedicated to preventing brain and spinal cord injuries, bicycle helmets are intended to offer the best protection against a single forceful crash, and must be replaced afterwards, while skateboard helmets work best against less-intense, multiple impacts most common in skateboarding.

 Head injury rates among child and youth cyclists are approximately 25 per cent lower in provinces with helmet laws when compared with those that do not have such laws. Currently, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Territories do not have mandatory bicycle helmet legislation for children under 18.

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