Parents should make their children wear helmets whenever they're riding bicycles, says a local paramedic.
No bike helmet, no bike.
It's a simple parental order. And it's one that helped to save Sarah Burns from a serious injury last week.
Burns, a 13-year-old West Junior High student, was riding her bike shortly before 6 p.m. March 20 on Centennial Drive, when she ran a stop sign at Harvard Road and crashed into the windshield of a 1990 Ford Tempo.
Rob Kort, a paramedic supervisor for the Douglas County Ambulance Service, was the first paramedic to reach the scene.
"She flew up onto the windshield and completely broke the windshield out, and she ended up falling onto the concrete," Kort said. "Her back and the back of the head hit the windshield."
Luckily, the girl was wearing a bike helmet, which absorbed the impact of the collision.
"The helmet itself was fractured," Kort said. The hard outer shell was cracked at the back and split almost in two pieces.
"And you could see where glass from the windshield had embedded itself into her helmet," he said. "If that would have been her head, there would have been some serious injuries from that. ... If she was not wearing her helmet, there was no doubt in my mind that she could have been seriously injured."
The girl did suffer bruises and scratches from the impact, but she was treated for those at the scene, he said.
Her father, Garth Burns, said his daughter didn't want to be interviewed about the accident.
"The good news is that the helmet prevented a major injury," he said. "All she had was some scrapes and bruises."
Burns said his daughter had owned her helmet for more than a year. And his rule was, "You don't wear the helmet; you don't ride the bike."
There is no city or state law requiring bicycle riders to wear helmets. However, local police, the ambulance service and Lawrence Memorial Hospital have had safety campaigns promoting wearing helmets.
Kort, who estimated there are about 100 bicycle accidents a year in Lawrence, said it is difficult for parents to get their children to wear bike helmets.
"Some of the kids don't think they're very cool looking. They think everybody will think they're a geek," Kort said.
However, helmet manufacturers are creating better designs that are more colorful and appealing, he said.
"Parents just need to make a rule that if you're going to ride a bike, you've got to wear a helmet," he said. "I know there's an expense to it, but it can save your life.
"I have two girls of my own and we've gone through the stage that it's not cool to wear a helmet. And I point out to them it's not cool to be in the hospital either."
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