It’s not always easy to get kids to wear helmets when they ride bicycles, but it’s a lot more difficult if they don’t have helmets to wear.
That’s the thinking behind the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Bicycle Helmet Initiative, which has provided thousands of helmets to low-income kids since 2007 using money from the sale of special cycling license plates. NCDOT is now taking applications for the helmets from government agencies and nonprofit groups.
Since 2001, state law has required all bicycle riders and passengers under age 16 to wear an approved helmet while riding on a public road or trail. And yet children between the ages of 6 and 18 were the least likely of any age group to wear helmets in the year after the law went into effect, according to a study by the UNC Highway Safety Research Center.
Nationwide, children and teens, ages 5 to 19, have the highest rate of bicycle injuries, accounting for more than a third of all bicycle-related injuries seen in U.S. emergency departments, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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The “Share the Road” license plates cost $60, twice the charge for a standard plate. Of the extra money generated, $20 goes to bicycle education and safety programs, with most used to buy helmets. Sales of the plates generate about $13,000 a year, and NCDOT expects to provide about 4,000 helmets this year, about the same as last year, said spokeswoman Katie Trout.
The state gets more requests for helmets than it can provide, Trout said. Applications are scored and weighted based on responses in the applications, with higher scores for more specific strategies for getting the helmets to children who need them. In the past, all applicants have received at least some helmets, if not all that they requested.
For more information, including an application, go to www.ncdot.gov/bikeped/safetyeducation/helmet_initiative/. Applications are due by 5 p.m. Dec. 11, 2017. Applicants can request 25, 50, 75 or 100 helmets, which will be distributed by April 30, 2018.