Saving skulls

Prince Albert traffic division Const. Craig Reddekopp talks about bike safety on June 1. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Police to hand out helmets to kids with uncovered craniums this summer

The Prince Albert Police Service is hoping kids out cycling will be a little safer thanks to a new helmet initiative.

The police held a press conference Thursday to announce the purchase of 50 bicycle helmets that will be distributed to youth throughout the community.

The purchase was possible through three $500 contributions, one through an SGI/Acquired Brain Injury Partnership grant, one from the police force and one from the police association.

Local businesses also contributed. Each of the $500 contributions was spent at a different business, Gene’s Sports, Fresh Air Experience and Propaganda, who each sold the helmets at a discounted rate.

The helmets will be kept at the station with some going out with traffic patrol officers, who will give out the helmets when they see a kid aged 12 or under in need.

“The target audience is our children in our community. We want to ensure their safety this summer when they’re out biking,” said traffic division Const. Craig Reddekopp, who organized the project.

“Acquired brain injuries are huge, and the younger you are, you’re not as good of a rider, so you need as much protection as you can offer. It’s kind of like a car seat.”

Reddekopp said there are two main reasons kids might skip their helmets – either their family can’t afford one, or they think it’s uncool.

The force is out to fix both issues, by handing out the headwear and encouraging kids and parents to always wear their helmets.

Reddekopp also said he often sees kids riding without a helmet. Given how traumatic a brain injury can be, he said, there is no reason not to.

“If there’s any type of injury to the head or neck, it’s really quite traumatic. It’s traumatic even being put on the spine board, being put in an ambulance and transported to hospital. It’s also traumatic for the parents to see their child in that state. It doesn’t make any sense to see children not wearing a helmet.”

The project is also an opportunity for officers to have positive interactions with kids in the community, and build up that trust.

“You can’t measure (the opportunity for a positive interaction with kids),” he said. “The majority of kids look at us in a quite negative fashion. It’s nice to be able to get our, interact with them, and let them know that we’re just people like they are. We can make them laugh and be funny, just like mom and dad, because most of us are moms and dads.”

The business partners were pleased to be a part of the project. Both Mike Horn of Fresh Air Experience and Adam Balon of Propaganda spoke about the importance of bike safety.

“I’ve got two kids … and winter sports, summer sports – helmets are mandatory for everything,” Balon said. “I think the program is great.”

“Anytime you can help put helmets on kids’ heads, it’s very important,” Horn said. “I’ve got two young kids, and it’s engrained into their mentality that as soon as you get on a bike, or a scooter, or a skateboard or anything, you put a helmet on. If we can instil that … it’s great. If we can contribute, we’re happy to.”

According to Saskatchewan brain Injury Association numbers quoted by the police force, wearing a bicycle helmet can reduce the risk of brain injuries by 88 per cent. About 75 per cent of bicycle fatalities are a result of brain injury, and an average of one cyclist dies in Canada every week.

While several other provinces and municipalities have legislation surrounding the mandatory use of bicycle helmets in youth under the age of 18. No such provincial law or municipal bylaw exists in either Saskatchewan or Prince Albert.