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City heads toward helmet ruling

Posted: Friday, October 29, 2004

Thanks to a presentation from members of the group likely to be most affected, the city of Soldotna may soon pass a bicycle helmet law similar to one enacted in Kenai earlier this year.

At Wednesday's Soldotna City Council meeting, members of Connie Tobin's third- and fourth-grade class at Kalifornsky Beach Elementary presented their findings on helmet safety to the council. Using a Power Point presentation packed with facts and statistics, the children showed the council why they believe a helmet law would save lives and reduce injuries in the city.

Included in the report were statistics that showed approximately 800 bicyclists die each year in accidents, and that two thirds of those who are killed die as the result of head injuries. The students also pointed out a survey they did indicating more than 40 percent of their classmates do not wear bicycle helmets most of the time.

The students argued that creating a helmet law for children age 16 and under would remove the social stigma of wearing a helmet, because all children would be required by law to have one on.

"We don't have to worry about looking cool because everybody has to wear a helmet," one of the students pointed out.

In addition, because Kenai already has a helmet law, she said, the law would bring continuity to the two cities.

"It makes sense with the connecting bike path," she said.

Following the presentation, city council members indicated they are interested in considering the suggestions brought by the students.

"I feel we should move along with this," council member Jane Stein said.

Stein said she believes a helmet law is greatly needed in the city and said she would support any such measure brought before the council.

"We need to do something because if we save a life, it's worth it," she said.

As for the students, the council was unanimous in its praise for their efforts to change things in the city.

"They were just awesome," council member Lisa Parker said. "I appreciate all the work they did."

In addition to helping get things changed, teacher Parry Tobin said her students learned valuable lessons in civics, public speaking and research.

"It's been a wonderful experience for us and it's touched on every part of our curriculum," Tobin said.

What form the proposed ordinance will take has yet to be determined, but council members indicated they would like to see something come forward similar to Kenai's ordinance, which mandates helmet use for anyone 16 years old and younger, and implements a fine system of $25 to the offending child's parents. With each additional offense, the fine increases by $25, up to a maximum of $100. The law also includes a provision to dismiss a first offense if the child can prove he or she has a helmet.

"I don't think we need to reinvent the wheel here," council member Sharon Moock said.

Mayor Dave Carey said he thinks an ordinance should be brought forward in the near future, and promised the children who proposed the idea that the city will keep them apprised of any progress on a new helmet ordinance.

"I guarantee we will stay in touch with you," he said.



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