Reminders for bike helmets

Liam and Kate Norris with the shattered pieces of his bike helmet after a run-in with a car.

A string of child bicycle accidents in Te Anau is bringing the importance of wearing a helmet back in the spotlight amidst a national debate.

It's a startling image to see the fragments of 12-year-old Liam Norris' shattered bike helmet.

In February, Liam was cycling on the footpath on his way home from school when a car pulled out and knocked him off his bike.

His mum, Kate, was grateful that apart from a broken femur and hand, Liam turned out okay, thanks in part to his helmet.

"It's quite clear from the outcome that he was a very lucky boy," she said.

It's one of three similar incidents that have occurred among Te Anau's youngest cyclists over the past 12 months, prompting Constable Dwight Grieve to give a presentation at the school about the best cycling practices last month.

The debate around cycle helmets has resurged on the national stage, with last month's protests in Wellington advocating for a change around the legal requirement to wear a helmet while cycling.

Mr Grieve said he understood where the protesters were coming from, but said the debate wasn't about freedom of choice. Instead it came down to safety. 

Recent international data showed wearing a helmet decreased the chance of a serious head injury or death by 70%, he said.

"Data and common sense indicates that helmets save [people from] injury and save lives."

Mrs Norris also agreed that wearing a helmet was a no-brainer.

"The consequences can be so severe and something so simple can just prevent these."

In addition to wearing a helmet, Mr Grieve said it was also a legal requirement that it was strapped on properly. 

The "Southland Salute" campaign encourages riders to remember the "2-4-1" rule: a two finger-width distance between the helmet and eyebrows, four straps around the ears, and enough space under the chin strap to fit just one finger through.

"If you get into a crash, it falls off. And I personally have dealt with the ramifications of a person not having their cycle helmet done up," Mr Grieve said.

Road Safety Southland's road safety advisor Maureen Deuchrass said she also disagreed with the recent anti-helmet demonstrations, saying it had been a long effort to normalise helmet wearing.

Half of all cyclist deaths occurred on rural roads, she said. With the sport of cycling experiencing a surge in Southland, she said she'd like to see people thinking about the road as something to be shared with everyone. 

Road Safety Southland was also embarking on its "Get your Glow On" campaign to get cyclists and pedestrians alike to make themselves highly visible among the darker winter months.


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