ANNAPOLIS – Concerned adults in Maryland want children to “protect their melons.”
Cycle Across Maryland and the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have begun a bicycle safety campaign that will distribute bicycle helmets to children all over the state.
Since October 1995, it has been illegal for someone under the age of 16 to bicycle without a helmet in Maryland. Children can be given citations for violations, but there is no fine or criminal penalty.
The six-year-old nonprofit Cycle Across Maryland will also give free helmets through the newly established Kevin Lavin Fund, started by St. Dennis resident Alan De Sa in memory of his nephew.
Kevin was killed in a bicycle accident in Florida last year. De Sa has pledged to donate $1,000 a year to the program.
Before this year’s “Protect Your Melon” campaign, Cycle Across Maryland had already helped give 10,000 helmets to elementary school students, said Executive Director Pat Bernstein.
Bernstein noted that helmets should meet the safety standards of the American National Standards Institute, the Snell Memorial Foundation, or the American Society of Testing and Measurement — all organizations that evaluate helmets.
Though a helmet that meets these standards normally can cost a minimum of $15 to $20, Bernstein said that parents “should not go inexpensive” and compromise a child’s safety.
In 1994, 12 people died in Maryland bicycle accidents, and four of them were children, according to the state Department of Health Mental Hygiene.
Of the 213 who survived, 40 percent had head injuries, which usually followed collisions with cars.
Though the Cycle Across Maryland program is directed at needy children, there is no maximum income level, Bernstein noted.
However, she said the group also distributes helmets to school districts, and often teachers and administrators then give the helmets to children whom they know are less privileged.
For instance, children who participate in the federal free and reduced lunch programs may be selected, said Carey Reece, an instruction coordinator for Worcester County Public Schools.
Helmets are also given away at countywide bicycle safety programs, and through such groups as the Lion’s Club.
Parents and children can write directly to the Kevin Lavin Fund to be considered for free bicycle helmets, at 7 Church Lane, Suite 8, Baltimore, MD 21208. Preference is given to children who write their own letters. -30-