The study is the first of its kind to look at how school-based safety programs can change childrens behavior over the long term, say Sallie E. Davis Kirsch, Ph.D., R.N., of the University of Washington and colleagues.
Children who participated in the program also received custom-fit helmets, suggesting that accessibility to helmets is a necessary supplement to education to produce behavioral change, Kirsch and colleagues say.
Almost two-thirds of the children said they wore a helmet on their most recent ride, and nearly 70 percent of those said they used the helmets they received in the safety program. Children in schools with the safety program were significantly more likely to wear helmets than children outside the program, according to the researchers.
Head traumas result from 140,000 bicycle accidents annually, and 252 children die from these injuries each year. Previous studies have shown that proper use of bicycle helmets can reduce the risk of brain injury in a bicycle crash by between 74 percent and 85 percent.
Kirsch and colleagues studied 284 fifth- and sixth-graders, ages 10 to 12, who had attended schools where a Washington state bicycle safety program was offered to fourth-graders. The program includes classroom discussions, a safety video, free cycling helmets and a letter to parents. Using a short questionnaire, the researchers asked the fifth- and sixth-graders about their helmet use and knowledge of bicycle safety behaviors.
Girls and younger children were more likely to report using their helmets during their most recent rides, the researchers found.
The students said that helmet fit, rather than color or style, made a difference in whether they wore a helmet. They also said that they wore helmets even if they thought they were g
Contact: Sallie Davis Kirsch
Center for the Advancement of Health