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Helping kids ride safer: American Academy of Pediatrics, ODOT distributing bicycle helmets across state

Thanks to a doctors’ group and a state agency, thousands of Ohio kids will get new bicycle helmets, including children in Lawrence County.

The helmets come from a campaign called Put A Lid On It! which is a partnership between the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Some 9,000 helmets are going out across the state and will be given to children free of charge.

Law enforcement agencies and community organizations, Safe Routes to School Programs, Safe Communities Programs, and others, applied for helmets through a competitive application process. Awardees were selected to receive helmets based on need.

Hayley Southworth, the director for program management for the American Academy of Pediatrics, said they are supporting the Put A Lid On It! campaign because they are trying to reduce the number of children that are hurt and they have been providing helmets since 2011.

“In that time, we have given out a lot of helmets and hopefully saved some lives,” she said.

Southworth said their academy’s programs are lead by physicians who share exactly what they are seeing when they treat children.

“Our ER doctors who lead Injury Prevention Works said that they see kids who are coming in with injuries because they are falling off their bikes,” Southworth said. “And those injuries could be prevented if they all had helmets to wear.”

So, the American Academy of Pediatrics and ODOT promote not only the use of helmets but educating communities about the need for children to wear helmets while bicycling.

“If you wear a helmet every time you ride, you can reduce the chance of traumatic brain injury,” Southworth said, adding they know that about 75 percent of children ride a bike on a regular basis. “But only 20 percent wear a helmet regularly. That’s a big gap of kids who are riding but they aren’t protected.”

According to information from the American Academy of Pediatrics, bicycle-related fatalities only represent four percent of roadway fatalities; they are on the rise statewide. Between 2009-2018, 182 Ohioans were killed while riding a bicycle, a 22 percent increase. Twelve percent of bicycle-related fatalities in the last five years were children between the ages of 5 to 14.

The helmets are to complement local approaches to improving safety for people biking, combined with other educational programs, enforcement activities, and engineering solutions. The Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office will be the local recipient of the helmets and will distribute them at a later time.

Since 2008, ODOT has invested $4 million annually into the Safe Routes to School program which builds sidewalks and improves street crossings and encourages children to safely walk or bike to school.

To learn more about Bike Helmet Safety Awareness Week, visit the Put A Lid On It page at the Ohio AAP’s website at www.ohioaap.org/putalidonit. To learn more about the Ohio Safe Routes to School program visit: walk.ohio.gov.