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South Valley Journal

Helmets, awareness most important bike safety practices

Jun 29, 2018 02:42PM ● By Jet Burnham

Brayden Bradford shows off his bike safety skills. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | j.burnham@mycityjournals.com

Det. Mike Russell said the biggest safety issue for kids is not wearing a helmet when riding their bikes, skateboards and scooters. 

“Wearing helmets is huge,” said Russell. “They should always have a helmet on. If we could have everybody wear a helmet, that would be our No. 1 goal.” 

As a police officer with the Unified Police Department, Russell said he has seen helmets save lives. But wearing helmets is often overlooked. 

“If you were to watch when kids are coming to school every day, one-fourth of them don’t have helmets, and some of those don’t have them on the right way,” said Rebecca Blackburn, first-grade teacher at Midas Creek Elementary. 

As the weather got warmer this spring, Midas Creek Elementary, in Riverton, held a Bike Rodeo. Ardis Bird, the PTA volunteer who arranged the rodeo, said they invited just first-grade classes to participate. 

“They are having the opportunity to be a little bit more independent, as they know how to ride a bike, and they are off riding,” she said. “You want them out of the road and stopping at the stop sign and learning the safety rules so they can be safe as they enjoy their summer activities.” 

Russell and fellow detective Jared Nichols reviewed safety rules with first-graders and discussed traffic signs students might encounter in their neighborhood—stop signs, crosswalks, railroad crossings. They also reviewed cycling hand signals. 

Then the 6- and 7-year-olds navigated an obstacle course designed to test their awareness of potential dangers they may encounter while playing outdoors. Parent volunteers met students at each station, to watch them identify hazards and follow traffic signs. Riding bikes and scooters provided by the officers, students navigated several stop signs, a train crossing, a pedestrian crossing at an intersection, swerving between cones and yielding at roundabout. 

Nichols made sure to demonstrate proper helmet placement for students. He said helmets should have a snug fit and be level on the head of the wearer. Most of the students brought their own—some with rubber Mohawks or designed to look like a unicorn. Police provided helmets to those who didn’t. 

Nichols stressed that safety should be the top priority for kids playing outside. Even when kids are playing, they should be aware of their surroundings. 

Blackburn said most kids know the safety rules, but it is good to have a reminder—especially this time of year, when kids are getting out on their bikes more. 

She said the kids loved having real police officers talk to them and having positive interactions with them in a fun and friendly environment. 

“They are still excited about learning new things at this age, and they listen better to them,” said Blackburn.

Natalie Bradford, parent of four boys ranging from 7 to 15, knows kids resist following safety rules—especially as they get older. 

“My older two definitely think they don’t have to wear a helmet,” said Bradford. She said she reminds them to, but they don’t always listen, thinking they’ll be fine. 

“I think it’s good for them to see the police officers as the instructors to reinforce that it is a good idea,” said Bradford. 

Nichols, who has been an officer for 20 years, said he enjoys the work he does in Community Oriented Policing. In addition to hosting bike rodeos at schools around the valley, they also provide various trainings for businesses and give presentations to Cub Scout groups. He enjoys educating students but believes parents are the most important factor in keeping kids safe.

“Parents do a good job teaching safety, but [the bike rodeo] reiterates that and gives clarity,” said Nichols.

He said parents especially need to address driveway safety with all family members. 

“The biggest tragedy I’ve seen in my career usually occurs in their own driveway,” said Nichols. He said helping kids and drivers be more aware of their surroundings can prevent kids from being hit when cars are backing out.