By Jeff Shaffer, the Staff writer
WATSONTOWN - Bicycling is a recreational sport enjoyed by many children and adults. However, many riders don't exercise precaution while enjoying the pastime. The consequences can be disastrous. That is why local officials decided to raise awareness and hold a bike rodeo Saturday at the Watsontown Elementary School.
"The idea is to promote safety and education," said Veronica Irvine, volunteer EMT and EMS bike patrol for the Warrior Run Fire Department (WRFD).
As part of the event, participants who brought in their bikes had them registered, inspected, and were offered a challenge course as well as learning the rules of the road and appropriate hand signals. Each was also given what is considered to be one of the biggest lifesaving factors - a helmet.
According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, there are 85 million bike riders in the United States. Annually, over half a million visit an emergency room with injuries while many more go unreported. One in eight suffers a brain injury. Two-thirds of the deaths are from traumatic brain injury. It is reported that up to 88 percent of brain injuries can be prevented with a helmet.
Helmets and literature were donated by the North Central Highway Traffic Safety Council to the WRFD and Watsontown Police Department. Helmets were also purchased by State Farm Insurance, which shared in sponsoring the challenge course.
"It's a nice opportunity to teach kids about bike safety," said Karen Bottorf, Watsontown State Farm agent.
Irvine, who assisted in leading bike riders around the course, said there is quite a problem out there with parents who don't worry about helmet use.
"On the bike patrol for me it's mandatory," she said. "Kids in sportswear helmets, so why not on bicycles?"
Irvine said that it even goes beyond children, people of any age should wear this simple commodity that saves lives.
"People can trade helmets into companies after they are 'used,'" she said. "It's a one-time investment."
In addition, Irvine and Corporal Wade Danley of the Watsontown Police Department stressed the importance of following the rules of the road which are the same whether in a car or riding a bike.
Darian Cope, 10, of Watsontown, attended the bike rodeo with her father, Randy. She said she liked the event and thought it was helpful to her to be a safer rider.
"I'm glad they do this for the children," Randy said.