ANNAPOLIS – Third grader Kathleen Gorman says that wearing her red bicycle helmet is like keeping eggs in a carton: There’s less chance to break something if it’s protected.
That’s why she has worn a helmet since she was a toddler on the back of her father’s bicycle, she told the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee this week.
Kathleen wants Maryland to have an all-age mandatory helmet law that would “make an example for all children.”
But legislators who favor such a law say they are more likely to win passage of a narrower bill, requiring helmets only for minors like Kathleen.
Del. Mary Conroy, D-Prince George’s, has sponsored the tougher version, but acknowledges that many adults don’t want to be told they have to wear a helmet.
Sen. Arthur Dorman, D-Prince George’s, sponsored legislation similar to Conroy’s, but is proposing to amend his bill, limiting it to minors.
“I think it should be for everyone,” Dorman said in a telephone interview. But, he added, he’ll take the bill anyway he can get it.
Dorman compared the potential benefits of a bike helmet law to the 1992 mandatory motorcycle helmet law. Injuries have decreased since the motorcycle bill passed, he said. And motorcycle-related fatalities in Maryland have dropped from 55 in 1992 to 30 last year, according to the State Highway Administration.
Last year, the House approved a bicycle helmet bill for minors, but the measure was killed in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
Dorman believes his chances are better in 1995. “The atmosphere is a lot different this year,” with so many new legislators in the General Assembly, he said.
Thomas Roberts, chair of the Maryland Bicycle Coalition, said bicycle injuries know no age limit. “Bicycle helmets work” in the prevention of head injuries, he said.
At this week’s committee hearing, medical experts agreed.
The long-term consequences of a bicycle related head injury can be extremely serious, noted Jerry Goia, a pediatric neuropsychologist at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital in Baltimore. They can include life-long problems with memory, judgment, perception and behavior.
“The only way to truly cure this is to prevent this,” Goia said. “No brain injury is minor.”
Some bicyclists would prefer an all-age law.
Bill Clarke of the Potomac Peddler’s Touring Club said that if lawmakers think helmets are important, a law should apply to everyone. Howard, Allegany and Montgomery counties currently have mandatory child helmet laws. -30-