Grandview Heights City Council is considering legislation designed to make sure youngsters use their heads and wear their helmets when riding bicycles.

The ordinance would require anyone under age 18 to wear an approved helmet when riding a bicycle, scooter or skateboard or when using roller skates or in-line skates.

A helmet also would be required for youngsters riding gas- or electric-powered motorized vehicles under 5 horsepower that do not require a license to operate.

Golf carts and motorized wheelchairs would not be included in the ordinance.

"I think it's time for doing something like this," said council President Greta Kearns, who is sponsoring the legislation. "When I was kid, we didn't wear helmets. The social mores and standards have changed since then. Parents need to be responsible to make sure their children are properly equipped with a bike helmet."

Other central Ohio communities, including Bexley, Columbus and New Albany, have similar bike-helmet laws in place, she said.

Kearns said many residents have approached her about the need for such a law in Grandview.

"We are a community where so many kids ride bikes. We don't have school buses, so a lot of students ride their bike to school," she said. "There's such a problem with distracted driving these days. We should do everything we can to make sure our children are protected."

'Parent's responsibility'

Under the proposed legislation, parents would bear the responsibility if their child does not wear a helmet.

"It's a parent's responsibility to protect their children and look out for their safety," Kearns said.

A minor spotted not wearing a helmet by police would be informed of the violation and reminded of the dangers of riding without headgear. The bike could be confiscated until a parent claims it and is informed of the violation.

A first violation would be suspended if a parent provides proof they own a protective helmet that meets safety standards and appropriately fits their child, Kearns said.

A second violation would be subject to a $25 fine. Subsequent violations would incur $50 fines.

The charge would be a minor misdemeanor, although more-serious misdemeanor charges could be filed if the parent had been convicted or pleaded guilty in the previous year to motor-vehicle or traffic offenses.

"This is not intended to be punitive," Kearns said. "It is meant to be part of a multipronged approach, including public information efforts and working with the schools, to encourage the use of bike helmets in our community."

The ordinance will be referred to council's safety committee, led by Steve Reynolds.

Reynolds said he is concerned the ordinance was introduced before a special meeting of the safety committee he has scheduled was held.

That meeting will be held at 7 p.m. June 26 in council chambers, 1016 Grandview Ave.

It is designed to seek community input on potential strategies for encouraging children to wear helmets, Reynolds said.

"It was my understanding the ordinance would not be introduced until after we held the meeting," he said. "We won't be addressing the ordinance per se at the meeting. We will schedule another safety committee meeting at some point to review the legislation."

The introduction of the ordinance may convince some residents that a decision about the issue has already been made, Reynolds said.

"I don't want to do anything that may discourage people from coming to the meeting and giving their input," he said.

"I'm not necessarily opposed to the concept of a bike-helmet law. I may well vote for this ordinance," Reynolds said. "Everybody believes young people should wear a helmet when they ride a bike.

"But I'm not sure we should proceed with this ordinance until we have a chance to consider all aspects of the issue," he said. "There may be ways to approach this issue in a more comprehensive way or things we could do to tweak the legislation before it was brought to the table."

Reynolds said he previously has suggested the city look at ways to encourage motorist safety.

"I walk a lot, especially with my dog, and I notice that some drivers aren't always doing the things they should, whether it's coming to a complete stop at a stop sign or allowing pedestrians to cross or obeying a traffic signal," he said.

Bikers and pedestrians are put at risk by unsafe drivers, Reynolds said.

"Perhaps there could be additional signage put on stop signs or at crosswalks that indicates this city strictly enforces pedestrian right-of-way laws," he said.

Stats: Helmets work

Mandating helmets for children is the best way to protect them against safety hazards and vehicle-related injuries, Kearns said.

The preamble to the ordinance cites research by the American Academy of Pediatrics that shows bike helmets are the most effective way to reduce head injuries and fatalities resulting from bike crashes.

The academy's studies have found that the proper use of helmets reduces the risk of head injury by 85 percent, severe brain injury by 88 percent and bicycle-related fatalities by 75 percent, Kearns said.

Whenever a community or state enacts a bike-helmet law, there is a direct and corresponding increase in the use of helmets, said Sarah Denny, an attending physician at Nationwide Children's Hospital and associate clinical professor in the department of pediatrics at the Ohio State University College of Medicine.

Denny also is a participant in Put a Lid on It, a campaign by the American Academy of Pediatrics' Ohio chapter to help raise awareness of bike safety among children.

"We held our Bike Helmet Safety Awareness Month program in May in Ohio," Denny said. "We distributed more than 10,000 bike helmets to children. We forwarded helmets for distribution at events relating to bike safety, whether it was a bike rodeo or a event where bike-helmet legislation was being discussed."

The Ohio chapter supported legislation introduced in 2015 by former state Sen. Shannon Jones (R-Springboro) that would have required children under age 16 to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle.

The legislation received three hearings but was never acted on, Denny said.

"It just doesn't make sense to me," she said. "We have laws requiring people to wear safety belts, but not bike helmets. There is still a lot of resistance to the idea of mandating the use of helmets.

"A child may say, 'but I'm really safe riding my bike,' and that may be true, but what about the motorist who isn't safe or the gravel in the road?" Denny said.

As an emergency-room physician at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Denny said she has treated many children whose injuries could have been worse had they not been wearing a helmet -- and others who sustained serious, life-changing brain injuries because they weren't wearing a helmet.

Parents can do a lot to encourage their children to wear helmets by wearing one themselves, she said.

"If they see you in the habit of wearing a helmet, they are much more likely to do it, too," Denny said. "Everybody should wear a helmet. A traumatic brain injury changes your life forever."

Currently 22 states have helmet laws and more than 200 communities have local ordinances, she said.

The importance of wearing helmets was demonstrated locally April 26, when a 10-year-old Grandview boy was struck by a car, Kearns said.

"Fortunately, he was wearing a helmet," she said.

The incident occurred at the entrance to the Municipal Building parking lot on Grandview Avenue, Grandview police officer Janna Cohill said.

"If the boy had not been wearing his helmet, it's possible he would not have survived," she said.

Positive reinforcement

Most youngsters in Grandview do wear helmets while riding bicycles, Cohill said.

"We've definitely seen the number of people wearing helmets increase over the years," she said. "Grandview is a very safety-conscious community, especially since so many people, both kids and adults, ride their bikes around town."

Grandview's police and fire departments participate in the Bicycle Safety Campaign, a program coordinated through Nationwide Children's Hospital.

"It's a bike-safety campaign that involves first responders," Cohill said. "They provide us with coupons for Dairy Queen cones and we'll present one to a child we see is wearing a helmet while riding their bike."

The campaign provides positive reinforcement for children, she said.

The youngsters also are entered into a raffle for prizes from the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cohill said.

Cohill visited the Safetyview Heights program June 8 at McKinley Field Park to talk about bike safety and the importance of wearing a helmet.

Safetyview Heights is an annual summer program for children entering kindergarten and first grade that teaches them how to be safe at home, at school and while playing.

Cohill said she talked to the program's participants about how to ride their bike safely, obeying traffic signs and signals and the safety equipment on bicycles.

"What's most important is how to wear a helmet properly," she said. "If a helmet is not fitted properly, it's not going to provide the protection you need."

At Safetyview Heights, youngsters are shown how to properly put on a helmet and make sure it fits, said Carrie Williams, who coordinates the program with Carrie O'Mara.

"We tell them about the 'two-fingers rule,' " Williams said. "You should be able to put two fingers from your brow to the brim of the helmet, if it's fitted properly."

Children need to know how to put on their helmets properly, she said.

"A lot of the kids who come through our program know they are supposed to wear helmets, but they don't always know how to put them on," Williams said. "They'll just put it on loosely or haphazardly, and so they're not really protected at all."

afroman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekAfroman