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Bicycle Helmets in the Movies

Summary: This 1997 press release describes the effort of helmet promoters to persuade movie studios to show children in helmets.

Advocates Press Movie Studio
News Update

For immediate release
For information, call Peter Goldman
(206) 223-4088

September 23, 1997
Seattle, WA

Children's Safety At Stake:
Coalition Calls for a Response

Members of the Coalition for Children's Use of Bicycle Helmets in Film and Television held a press conference today to urge the movie and television industry to show children wearing helmets when they are seen riding bicycles in movies and on TV programs. The coalition came together in response to concern over the poor and dangerous example that is set for kids by the Universal/MCA movie, Leave It To Beaver, which shows children riding without helmets. Today's press conference drew reporters and concerned parents and citizens. Following are comments made by Peter Goldman, an attorney, father of three young children and an avid bicyclist.

"Three weeks ago, I took my three kids to see the new Universal/MCA movie, Leave It To Beaver. Bicycles are a major theme in the movie. The plot revolves around Beaver's bicycle being stolen, and dozens of children are depicted riding bikes to school and around the neighborhood.

I was shocked--frightened, even--that none of the dozens of children shown riding bikes were wearing helmets. Leave It To Beaver is a recent--but by no means the only--example of studios dangerously depicting helmet-less children riding, racing or doing tricks on bicycles. I suspect that someone connected with the movie made the artistic decision that helmets don't look good on film. Because I am aware of the tremendous number of children who die or are grievously injured because they were not wearing helmets, I decided that someone had to direct the public's attention to this critical children's safety issue

Hundreds of children die or suffer serious, and often permanent, head injuries each year while riding bicycles. Many of these injuries would not have occurred if the child had been wearing a helmet When child actors and actresses do not wear helmets, it sends a dangerous message to kids: that it is OK not to wear a helmet. This is, in fact, a message of death for children who simply do not know any better.

Two weeks ago, our coalition sent a fax and a certified letter to Universal/MCA, asking them to explain why the dozens of children riding bikes in Leave It To Beaver were not wearing bike helmets. We have not heard from them or the director of the movie and will continue our efforts. such as this press conference, to bring this matter to their attention. We want to know why a studio would depict children doing such a dangerous thing. There is simply no artistic or creative excuse for sending kids such a dangerous message.

We are calling upon Universal/MCA and other movie and television companies, directors and producers to announce that they will not depict children biking without helmets. We want Leave It To Beaver to be the last film that shows this dangerous practice. We are urging Universal/MCA and the producers and director of the movie to work with our coalition to try to undo the damage that has been caused by the fact that millions of kids who have seen Leave it To Beaver have received a dangerous message. We are also urging parents, guardians and others to teach kids that they should always wear a certified and properly fitting helmet, no matter whom they see not doing so."

Coalition members cited sobering facts to support the need for bicycle helmet use among children. Statistics from the National Safe Kids Campaign and the Injury Prevention and Research Center at Harborview Medical Center show that approximately 600 children under age 14 die each year from accidents while riding bicycles. Head injuries are the leading cause of death in these accidents, accounting for more than 60 percent of bicycle-related deaths and about one-third of hospital emergency room visits for bicycle injuries.

Head injuries account for 43 percent of all deaths to children ages 5 through 9, far surpassing any other cause. Approximately 75 to 80 percent of children under age 14 who are involved in a bicycle crash suffer head trauma. Unlike many other types of injuries, there is often little that can be done to treat or heal a serious head injury.

Bicycle helmets would prevent 80 to 90 percent of children's head injuries. Unfortunately, nationwide, only 5 percent of all children wear bicycle helmets. In Washington, due to intensive helmet-safety campaigns, the rate is 58 percent for children and 68 percent for adults.

Other members of the Coalition who participated in the press conference were Dr. Fred Rivara, director of the Injury Prevention and Research Center at Harborview Medical Center; Johna Thompson, regional director of the national head injury prevention organization Think First; Katrina Carter, a teenager who has experienced a bicycling injury and is now a spokesperson for helmet use; Evan Simpson, director of public affairs for the Injury Prevention and Research Center at Harborview; Susie Stephens, executive director of the Northwest Bicycle Federation (NOWBIKE), a statewide bicycling and bicycle safety organization; Judy Maleng, an educator, civic activist, and injury prevention advocate; and Mac Shelton, legislative chair of the Brain Injury Association of Washington, and also an attorney, NOWBIKE board member, and avid cyclist.