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Heads up for safety

Albany County officials educate on bike safety, hand out helmets to kids

A handful of children gathered with county officials and then embarked on a course simulating the streets of Watervliet set up inside of the Watervliet Dome. They learned how to maneuver around cones, riding slowing to keep balance and, most importantly, were shown different signals to communicate with drivers on the road.

A handful of children gathered with county officials and then embarked on a course simulating the streets of Watervliet set up inside of the Watervliet Dome. They learned how to maneuver around cones, riding slowing to keep balance and, most importantly, were shown different signals to communicate with drivers on the road. Photo by Zan Strumfeld.

— It seems simple enough: wearing a helmet could mean a difference of life and death. A 2011 traffic study conducted by the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research noted that each year there is an average of 31 traffic-related bicycle deaths and about 635 hospitalizations in New York. The last reported fatal bicycle crash involving a child in Albany County occurred in 2009.

“You go into the City of Albany, for example, even though we have examples of kids losing their lives being struck by vehicles and suffering head trauma, the community is still not (using) helmets while riding these bikes,” Soares said.

One thing the officials agreed on, however, is struggling to make helmet-wearing “cool” for the kids.

“I remember as a kid growing up, you watch ‘Super Friends’ and after every show … those cartoons always ended with a safety tip. I don’t know if any of the children’s programming (today) has any of that. I think things like bicycle safety … are lost on us,” Soares said. “We want to make wearing a helmet cool again. I know for me, if you put a Spiderman or Captain America emblem on the side of the helmet, I’ll be riding with mine.”

Local law firm Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP, donated 100 helmets to the county, which were passed out to children on Wednesday. The remaining few will be distributed to residents throughout the summer.

“We’re always happy to help out the Albany County sheriff and his team. (We’re) glad to help the kids out, glad to help the county out,” said Clark Supley, of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti.

Sarah Place, 8, of Watervliet, said she’s been riding her bike for a long time but doesn’t wear a helmet. She said she was excited to receive a free one.

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