Mayor's accident a timely reminder

Posted7/5/2010 12:01 AM

To get a good idea to stick, a strong role model is usually needed. So it was refreshing to see The Associated Press story on U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in Sunday's Daily Herald.

LaHood, who has taken on many safety issues in his role, was seen in the photo accompanying the story atop a bicycle, in his suit, wearing a helmet. That's a strong image and one that everyone needs to heed - adults and children alike.


Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson certainly can relate. Johnson, an avid cyclist, took a hard fall last Tuesday night, head first onto the pavement while training for an upcoming bicycle race.

"If I had not had a helmet on, I would not be here today," Johnson told the Daily Herald's Eric Peterson.

Johnson recounted how he remembered nothing from the time his wheel collided with another cyclist's wheel and 4 a.m. the next day when he woke up at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge. He appears to be OK and will soon be back out on his bike, training yet again for Elk Grove's upcoming Mayor's Challenge Race.

The beautiful holiday weekend weather is a beacon call for bicyclists young and old. While wearing a helmet is much more common than, say, the early 1990s when even the top cyclists weren't required to wear them in the Tour de France, Johnson's accident is a reminder that a fall to the pavement can happen at any time. And not everyone is yet convinced it's necessary to strap on a helmet every time they hop on a bike.

A national survey released in 2008 showed just half of bicyclists wear a helmet on some trips and 35 percent put on a helmet for all trips. Nine of 10 support helmet laws for children, while 62 percent support such laws for adults.

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We think those numbers need to grow. Adults should always wear a helmet, especially if they want to model good behavior for their children. And accident statistics show helmet use significantly reduces injury risk and potential for death. In 2008, 91 percent of people killed in a bicycle accident were not wearing a helmet. Eighty-six percent of those killed in a bike accident that year were 16 or older. And males accounted for more than seven times as many bicyclist deaths as females in 2008.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, bicycles account for significantly more head injuries than any other sport. The estimated number of emergency room-treated head injuries attributed to a bicycle accident was more than 151,000 in 2004. Baseball was next at more than 63,000. There were more than 10,700 people hospitalized for bike injuries that year, compared to 1,346 for baseball.

There simply is no good reason not to wear a helmet when on a bike, whether it's for a quick trip around the neighborhood or training on a bike path at high speed. Stories like Johnson's and statistics make that clear.