It’s been eight years since Charlie Semones, a 6-year-old Early Learning Village kindergartner, died after being struck by a vehicle while riding his bicycle on Excel Court in the Silver Lake neighborhood. Charlie was not wearing a bike helmet at the time of the accident.

While 21 states and Washington, D.C., require minors to wear helmets when riding a bike, there are no laws in Kentucky that require bicyclists or even motorcyclists to wear them. But there should be.

Helmets are a cyclist’s best line of defense and protects against injury in 8 out of 10 crashes involving head bumps, according to the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB). Helmet usage also reduces the risk of a head injury by nearly 85%.

In 2018, the latest data released by the NTSB, there were 857 bicyclists killed in traffic accidents in the U.S. — eight of whom were Kentuckians.

Last year, there were four bicyclists and 49 motorcyclists in the state who died as a result of traffic accidents in which they were not wearing helmets. So far in 2020, one cyclist and 19 bikers have been killed on Kentucky highways.

Many of these deaths and the 80,000 cycling-related head injuries treated in our country’s emergency rooms annually are preventable, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Each year since Charlie’s death, Frankfort Regional Medical Center has hosted Kid’s Safety Day to both honor his memory and increase awareness of child safety issues. During the event, children are entered in drawings for bicycles and receive free bike helmets.

It’s important to start a helmet-wearing habit early. Much like children are taught to click their seatbelt every time they get in a vehicle, parents should encourage children to wear helmets every time they ride their bike or trike, as well as model that behavior by wearing helmets themselves when riding.

We urge state lawmakers to require that bikers wear helmets. It is the single most effective way to reduce the risk of a traumatic brain injury or death.

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