Why Would You Take a Chance on Your Children's Safety?

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This blog is a commentary on the article Children’s Safety on Wheels.

Often when speaking to a neighbor, colleague, or friend and sharing updates about our children and daily activities, the topic comes up about children and their love of skateboarding, using a “hoverboard”, riding bikes, etc. As a physician, naturally I am the “killjoy” who asks, “Does he/she wear a helmet?” If the school aged, preteen or teenager is part of the conversation, I usually ask the child directly. Most often regardless of whether the parent or the child is answering my questions, the answer is usually, “No.”

Why? My own daughter Claire has educated me on this topic. She has been raised with strict rules that no helmet means no bike or skateboard. I have undoubtedly traumatized her intentionally with many stories about patients treated in the Emergency Room and the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, from minor injuries to devastating head trauma (causing a coma and perhaps permanent injuries). She has graciously accepted that as my “one egg” and miracle pregnancy, I have chosen to never take a chance with her safety, and am working hard to be a role model myself regarding safety and responsible living such as not texting while driving.

Claire’s quick to tell me why children do not wear helmets, “It’s just NOT COOL mom! No one wears helmets with Hoverboards, you just don’t!” I am here to remind all of us, what is not cool is having a child with an injury that requires treatment, no matter how minor. As adults, we know that if someone get a DUI, it’s unlikely that was the first time the person has consumed alcohol and somehow believed it was safe to get behind the wheel. Risky behavior stems from an inner belief and “story” that convinces us, whatever we are choosing to do is “safe". My financial advisor has taught me a perspective that has been relevant to everything in life: past performance does not predict or guarantee future performance, like stocks.

Just because you haven’t been caught or pulled over for driving under the influence, doesn’t mean you won’t hurt someone or yourself. Just because your child has yet to fall and suffer a concussion, or get hit by an aggressive driver while they are on the road, on a bike or skateboard, doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Just because I have not yet had an accident while texting, believing it was okay because I was at a light, or no cars were around me on the freeway, does NOT mean it’s safe and I won’t get hurt or worse, hurt someone else. Dave lost his mother to a drunk driver as a freshman in college, and the person may as well have been texting.

Yet I am confessing the compulsion and lure of human behavior, my own, despite the cognitive ability to understand and acknowledge all the reasons why. I have to fight with my own urges to do something risky, and I am only able to succeed because recently both Dave and Claire have told me, sternly, that it is absolutely unfair to them, nor a commitment to our love for one another, for me to engage in risky harmful behavior like texting. I know they are right and I gave them my word and promise. I am always feeling that I need to “squeeze” in one more work related communication or social communication. There is just “NOT ENOUGH TIME”—the human excuse for every behavior not healthy for us or robbing us of being in the moment, with complete focus.

Back to children’s safety on wheels. In this article, a national poll by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan in May asked parents with children from ages 4 to 13 about safety rules when their children ride bikes, skateboards and scooters, and found that only 59 percent of parents reported their child always wears a helmet, with the number even lower for skateboards (42 percent) and scooters (39 percent). Eighteen percent of parents said their child “never” wears a helmet!

Dr. Gary L. Freed, a professor of pediatrics and health policy at the University of Michigan and the co-director of the poll, pointed out that 50 percent of the parents in the poll reported that their children ride non-motorized scooters, and these were more likely to be younger children.

Dr. Freed was also struck, he said, that only 22 percent of the parents whose children ride bicycles reported that they used hand signals when turning on the street, and only half walk their bikes across a crosswalk. “The best way to prevent an injury is to wear a helmet, and children need to follow the rules of the road,” Dr. Freed said.

This article highlights research showing more scooter related injuries than other wheel activities, and devastating head injuries are all preventable if a helmet is on. Just like the only way to prevent a vaccine preventable disease is to receive the vaccine, the only way to prevent head injury is to protect the head by using an appropriately sized good quality helmet.

If you don’t want to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle, that’s your choice, but not making sure your children wear a helmet to minimize and prevent injury, that’s also your choice and may have consequences. I hope you will ensure your children protect their head by wearing a helmet while out having fun.


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