No suit of armor for kids

Posted: Sunday, February 12, 2006

The recent Juneau Assembly decision to require helmets to be worn by children while bicycling is a "feel-good" waste of our police officers' time. Is it better to wear a helmet? Probably. Should our officers be taking their time away from real crimes? I don't think so.

I guess I have an odd perspective. I grew up riding in the back of pickups, jumping bikes over irrigation ditches, etc. My parents loved their kids, and didn't want us to get hurt, but they understood one important fact. You learn a lot when you get hurt, and you can't protect kids from everything. I lived. In fact, I lived gloriously. Unfortunately, my son will never know the excitement of riding in the back of a pickup, or many of the other great childhood adventures I had. Instead, he has an entire pack of watchdogs loading him up with safety gear, until he can't move.

Head trauma is a terrible thing. I would be crushed if my kids were to get permanently injured. Falling off his bike while going 15 mph is statistically not going to be much more of a threat than if he were to fall down the stairs.

How is a biker without a helmet different than an in-line skater, scooter rider, roller-skater, skateboarder, snowboarder, etc? They're not governed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, kids playing basketball, baseball, softball, football, or soccer account for 1.5 million emergency room visits per year and half of those are in school settings. Should Juneau police arrest parents for letting their kids participate in school sports? What about smoking around them? What about buying them a Big Mac and a soda?

Being a kid is dangerous, but too many kids are not being taught the important lessons pain teaches. They ride their bikes like idiots, careening through traffic, they don't need to be careful because they have their helmet protecting them from all harm. My child rides safely, because he has learned that riding stupidly hurts.

I must admit, I was excited when he broke his arm (while pursuing that horribly dangerous sport of sledding). He learned an incredible amount, and he healed. Or maybe I should get him a medieval suit of armor?

Allen Butner


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