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New Jersey Law Reduces Fatalities 60 Per Cent

Summary: After five years, some data on the effect of New Jersey's helmet law.

New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety
Division of Highway and Traffic Safety

Paul Loriquet, DHTS (609) 633-9045


Safety Experts Urge Motorists to Share the Road
With Bicyclists and Pedestrians

Camden -- Attorney General Peter Verniero and Colonel Peter J. O'Hagan, Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety, today announced that bicycle related fatalities for children age 13 and under have decreased by 60 percent since the inception of the states' 5-year bicycle helmet law.

In July 1992, New Jersey became the first state in the nation to require the use of bicycle helmets for children under the age of 14.

According to the Division of Highway Traffic Safety, in the five years prior to the law (1987-1991), there were a total of 41 reported bicycle-related fatalities for children age 13 and under. Sixteen bicycle-related fatalities for this age group have been recorded since the law took effect in 1992.

"This is encouraging news and supports the critical importance of wearing bicycle helmets," said Attorney General Verniero. "Bicycles are not toys. Children should always be properly protected while riding."

Five years prior to the passage of the bicycle helmet law, state statistics indicate a total of 75 bicycle-related fatalities for riders age 14 and over. Seventy-one fatalities occurred for the same age group five years after the law.

"New Jerseys' bicycle helmet law has made a pivotal transformation in reducing fatal injuries to children age 13 and under," said Col. O'Hagan. "However, bicycle-related fatalities for those age 14 and above have remained stagnant. The message is clear: All riders should wear helmets."

Bicycle helmet use for children under 14 in New Jersey is 68.9 percent, according to the latest survey conducted in 1993 by the Division of Highway Traffic Safety.

"New Jersey's bicycle helmet law was a landmark in highway safety, and we're pleased that five years later it has proven to be so effective," said National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator Thomas Louizou.

"Studies show that nearly all bicycle-related deaths involve head trauma. By simply wearing bicycle helmets, riders can reduce the incidence of head trauma by 85 percent," added Cooper Hospital/University Medical Center Trauma Surgeon Keith F. O'Malley, M.D.

During today's announcement held at Wiggins Waterfront Park, Camden Bicycle Patrol Officers conducted "Operation Safe Route," a training program designed to educate young bicyclists and pedestrians on how to avoid potentially dangerous situations, to obey the rules of the road, and to develop a safe riding and walking routine.

In addition, the New Jersey State Safety Council donated 200 bicycle helmets to the Camden Police Department. The helmets will distributed to children in low income families.

"Summertime is traditionally the busiest and potentially the most dangerous period for bicyclists and pedestrians," added John Haley, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation. "While a knowledgeable bicyclist and pedestrian are always the best defense against traffic crashes, motorists should be vigilant and remember to share the road."

O'Hagan added that as children learn pedestrian and bicycle safety, they look to their parents for acknowledgement and encouragement. Unfortunately, not all parents are as aware of the risks as they could be. If parents are to be safety role models, they must know and understand the safety lessons their children have learned.

"We strongly encourage parents and guardians to serve as role models and wear their helmets too," said Carol Ann Dillon, Director, Highway Safety/Special Projects for the New Jersey State Safety Council. "Make injury prevention a family priority. Kids are more likely to take safety precautions themselves when you give them the information and gear necessary to make the right decisions regarding their own safety."

Restrict cycling to sidewalks, paths and driveways until children can show how well they ride and observe basic rules of the road (usually around age 10).

Teach your children (ages 10 and older) to follow these basic rules of the road.

1. STOP before riding out into traffic from a driveway, sidewalk, alley, or parking lot. LOOK left, right, and left again. When there's no traffic, ENTER roadway.

2. RIDE on the right with traffic.

3. OBEY stop signs and red lights. (Kids under age 10 should walk, not ride bikes through busy intersections).

4. LOOK BACK and YIELD to traffic coming from behind before turning left at intersections.