NEW BRUNSWICK – Middlesex County is partnering with nine municipalities and Safe Kids Middlesex County of the Level 1 Trauma Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in a program to prevent traumatic brain injuries.
The sixth annual “Wheels Under Your Feet? Helmet on Your Head!” Think Positive Campaign begins June 21. The participating municipalities include Cranbury, Dunellen, Edison, Highland Park, Metuchen, Middlesex Borough, Monroe, Plainsboro, and South Brunswick.
Middlesex County, through its Comprehensive Traffic Safety Program, will provide helmets to participants in need with funds it received from the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety.
“This program is about keeping our children healthy, active and safe,” said Middlesex County Freeholder H. James Polos, chair of the County’s Public Works and Transportation Committee. “It rewards them for their good safety habits and encourages them to always wear their helmets when riding, biking or skating.”
“The ‘Think Positive’ program is an excellent example of the collaborative outreach that has been the cornerstone of Middlesex County’s Comprehensive Traffic Safety Program (CTSP),” said David Gregor, the county’s Comprehensive Traffic Safety Program coordinator. “Middlesex County is proud to be able to participate in the distribution of bicycle helmets to protect one of our most valuable county resources, our youth, from experiencing injury.”
Children who wear a helmet when participating in wheeled activities such as bicycling, skateboarding, rollerblading, or riding a scooter will be rewarded. Town police officers will give a “summons” to any child “caught” wearing their helmet between June 21 and Sept. 30. Each summons can be redeemed for free items, such as a scoop of ice cream or slice of pizza, and enters the child in a raffle drawing for a new helmet and bicycle at the end of the campaign.
The helmet safety campaign is part of a statewide education and awareness initiative to promote the expanded helmet law requiring all children under 17 to wear a helmet.
“The goal is to get children and adolescents wear their helmets whenever they put wheels under their feet,” said Diana Starace, Safe Kids Middlesex County Coordinator and the injury prevention coordinator for Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. “The campaign is modeled after a successful program held in Cranbury for the past 15 years. Their program has become so successful that it is estimated that approximately 90 percent of children age 14 and under wear their helmet on a regular basis.”
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 190,000 children sustain head injuries while participating in wheeled activities. Brain injuries often have lifelong effects, such as problems with thought processes, mobility and emotions. There is no cure for brain injury so prevention is extremely important.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a properly worn helmet can reduce the risk of brain injury by as much as 90 percent. Unfortunately, less than 50 percent of children wear helmets regularly.
“One of our main elements of the CTSP is the countywide bicycle safety initiative,” said Freeholder Polos, who oversees the Comprehensive Traffic Safety Grant and added that the County also will provide bike lights to participants. “Through the Think Positive Campaign, we are able to educate our youngsters about proper bicycle safety and provide helmets to those children who need it the most. We are committed to improve bicycle and traffic safety for all of our residents in Middlesex County”.
Last year, Cranbury police gave out 500 summonses, and parents wear their helmets as well after realizing the importance of helmet use. “You would think we were the ice cream man. The children see a police car and if they aren’t riding their bicycles already, they will run out and put on their helmets and ride their bikes in front of us,” said Sgt. Greg Pfremmer of the Cranbury Township Police Department.
Each participating town is encouraged to hold an “All-Wheeled Sports Rodeo” where children showing up with wheels and a helmet can go through an obstacle course and receive a “certificate” upon completion of the course.
Each rodeo will also offer bicycle maintenance checks, town bike registrations, and opportunities for education and proper helmet fitting. In addition, participating towns are encouraged to spread the message about wheeled-sports safety by providing educational programs in their schools.
“My Freeholder colleagues and I are committed to keeping our residents safe,” said Freeholder Director Christopher D. Rafano. “Through partnering with our towns and with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, we are taking a proactive and effective approach to keeping our families safe.”
Sponsored by Safe Kids Middlesex County, the Level One Trauma Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Middlesex County Comprehensive Traffic Safety Program, the Brain Injury Association of New Jersey and the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, the success of the campaign will be measured by pre- and post-campaign observational studies looking at the percentage of children wearing a helmet while participating in any wheeled sport.
For more information about this campaign or other safety programs, contact Safe Kids Middlesex County at 1-732-418-8026.
Officials joined students from Edgar Middle School in Metuchen to kick off of the sixth annual “Wheels Under Your Feet? Helmet on Your Head!” Think Positive helmet safety campaign on June 21 at the school. Participating officials included (left to right) Middlesex County Comprehensive Traffic Safety Program Coordinator David Gregor, Freeholder H. James Polos, Injury Prevention Coordinator for Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Diana Starace, and Metuchen Police Chief James Keane. Middlesex County, through its Comprehensive Traffic Safety Program, provided helmets to participants in need with funds it received from the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety. (Photo courtesy of Middlesex County)
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