Editorial: Too risky for riders not to wear helmets

By Scott Inglis

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Looking back, we used to take a lot of risks as kids.

We'd ride flat stick on our bikes, both on the footpaths and roads, head down and legs pumping, without any real regard to our own safety.

It was just what we did. At primary school, I had two bike accidents - one where I crashed into a gold Vauxhall Viva as its driver backed out a driveway; the other when I had a head-on collision with another kid on a bike on a footpath corner.

Both times I was lucky. All I suffered were skinned knees and elbows, and bruises.

I remember proudly getting back on my bike, thinking I was pretty tough. I had a 10-speed as a teenager and rode that faster on the road.

The other week I was watching 24 Hours In A&E; where a cyclist had come off her bike and struck her head on the road.

She suffered terrible head injuries and was lucky not to die.

The programme made me think of my years on that blue 10-speed bike, riding down hills with no helmet, hair flying in the wind (yes, I had hair then).

It was only luck nothing went wrong and I didn't land on my head, and end up in A&E.;

The issue of child safety has been again in the headlines this week with revelations the number of children hurting themselves on scooters has soared.

Scooters have become popular with children of all ages. It's common to see kids riding them to school, with no helmet and little protection.

Naturally, the rise in popularity has led to more accidents.

In the Bay, ACC received 373 claims from Western Bay parents for their children's scooter-related injuries last year. There were fewer than 29 in 2008. Nationally, ACC claims rose from 697 in 2008 to 6474 in 2012.

These increases are significant. They represent yet another risk for our children and another cost to our ACC and health systems.

Safekids New Zealand has responded by launching a Safe2Skoot programme to warn children about the dangers.

The organisation says the most serious of these injuries are traumatic brain injuries that could result in years of treatment and life-long disability, or death.

It says children's senses are not fully developed, which can cause them to miss dangers and increase their injury risk.

Safekids wants drivers to be more aware and is urging scooter riders to wear helmets.

But helmets are not compulsory for scooter riders as they are for bikes.

Helmets are important because we only get one brain. But it seems some people are not using it.

It's not uncommon for me to see adults on bikes not wearing them. They are either too lazy or too stupid to care.

Of course, if they did suffer a head injury, it would be us taxpayers who are expected to pay their medical costs.

So, should children on scooters wear helmets?

My view is yes. The rising injury figures point to a growing problem and the risks, like on a bike, are obvious.

I don't understand why some parents do not insist their children put them on.

I realise many people hold the view that our modern society too often wraps children in cotton wool, rather than encouraging them to take healthy risks.

The argument has merit. We do not need generations of people too scared to have a bit of fun.

What's wrong with children pushing their limits, climbing trees and playing bull rush?

After all, there is risk in most things we do. If it was good enough for us back in the 1970s to take these types of risks then why should things be different now?

I would argue society has changed since then, certainly in terms of road safety.

There are more vehicles on the road (and it seems more idiots). Back in the 1970s we had crude seatbelts in cars and those lethal, cut-you-in-half lap belts in the back.

Does this mean we should use these type of safety devices in our cars today?

Back then we had no airbags. Should we not have them now?

As we have evolved, so has our appreciation of safety and technology.

Children can still ride their scooters and take the risk of suffering broken bones and cuts. This is not wrapping them in cotton wool.

But their heads should be protected. It is simply common sense.

Of course, there is no law to say they have to. It is up to parents.

My question is: is it worth the risk?

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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