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Published: Wednesday, 7/7/2004

Sylvania officials ponder passage of bicycle-helmet law


Sylvania officials are considering making it a law for youngsters to wear a safety helmet when riding a bicycle.

Council members generally agree that wearing a helmet is desirable, but some suggested that making it a criminal offense to ride without a helmet might be too severe. They also questioned whether using police to cite youngsters was a reasonable use of manpower.

Some local communities are considering a law to make wearing helmets mandatory for children riding bicycles, but none has enacted legislation.

Lori Ferguson, coordinator of the Greater Toledo Kids Coalition, told City Council helmets can reduce by as much as 88 percent the chance of brain injury in a fall from a bicycle.

The group presented copies of legislation from other Ohio cities that have made helmets mandatory for youngsters with maximum ages ranging from 12 to 19. Penalties include confiscation of bikes in some ordinances and fines of up to $100.

Members of the coalition said the intent of legislation isn't to be punitive, but to find a way to encourage more children to wear helmets.

Sample legislation suggested by the group would make it mandatory for anyone under 18 to wear an approved helmet while bicycling. A first violation would be dismissed if proof is offered that the rider has the equipment. Otherwise, a first violation calls for a fine of not more than $20 and a second is punishable by a fine of not more than $50. Any future violation calls for the bicycle to be impounded until a parent or guardian and the child attend a bicycle-safety course.

The coalition praised Sylvania police for a program in which bicycle officers give young bicycle riders coupons that can be redeemed for ice cream when they see the youngster observing safety rules and wearing a helmet.

Patti Barnes, a Sylvania resident, urged the council to pass the legislation without referring it to the safety committee. She said the city could be the first in the area to pass such an ordinance and that passing it would give every parent an answer when children asked why they had to wear a helmet.

"Because it's the law is a good answer,'' she said.

Councilman Doug Haynam said he favors children wearing helmets and insisted that his children wear them. However, he questioned whether turning the situation into a criminal sanction is appropriate.

Mayor Craig Stough also wondered if an action that gets youngsters "on the wrong side of the law'' is what the city wants.

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