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Safety First: Groups team up to hand out bike helmets

DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Allyson Lowther with the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, straps a helmet on Seth Schrader, 8, (right) Wednesday at Mamie Martin Elementary School as part of the "Use Your Brain Safety Fair," a program that provides elementary school children safety helmets to use while biking.

DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Allyson Lowther with the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, straps a helmet on Seth Schrader, 8, (right) Wednesday at Mamie Martin Elementary School as part of the “Use Your Brain Safety Fair,” a program that provides elementary school children safety helmets to use while biking.

Brookhaven’s children will have no excuse for not wearing their helmet while riding their bikes, enjoying in-line-skating, skateboarding or riding their scooter after a series of helmet giveaways that began Wednesday.

The city of Brookhaven, Brookhaven Police Department, the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, Brookhaven School District and Brookhaven Academy have teamed together to present the “Use Your Brain Safety Fair” at area schools this week.

Each school’s event will feature a safety education presentation and a bicycle helmet giveaway.

The safety fair and helmet handouts were prompted by the city’s recent ordinance surrounding bicycle safety requirements, Alderman at Large Karen Sullivan said.

On March 19, 2013, Brookhaven city aldermen adopted a city ordinance requiring that children aged one to 16 riding a bicycle, electric bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, in-line skates, roller skates, skate shoes, motorized foot scooter, scooter or skateboard on any public area in the city must wear an approved helmet with the neck or chin strap fastened securely while the device is in motion.

Any passenger or child being towed also must wear a helmet, the ordinance goes on to say.

The Brookhaven Police Department will be enforcing the new ordinance, which states it is the responsibility of adults to have children in their care wear a helmet when skating or cycling in the city.

Sullivan said the city is grateful for the Department of Rehabilitation’s participation in the city’s safety goals.

“We really appreciate their concern for our children’s safety,” Sullivan said. “We hope the helmets will be used not only to comply with our ordinance, but to prevent head injuries.”

At each school, the MDRS is presenting a safety education program given by Allison Lowther, while volunteers from the police department and other participating agencies fit students for the right size helmets.

Lowther said the helmet giveaway is funded by a state trust fund.

“We fall under the traumatic brain injury and spinal chord injury trust fund,” Lowther explained, “It’s a state trust fund that was established in 1996. It is funded by money collected through DUIs and moving violations – that’s who provides these helmets.”

Lowther emphasized the need for safety education and the reason why Mississippians should be in the habit of wearing helmets when enjoying their bicycles, skates, scooters or skateboards.

“The reason we give out these helmets is to bring awareness to the fact that falls are the second leading cause of brain injury in our state,” Lowther said. “And the younger we can get people to get in the habit of wearing helmets, the more likely they are to wear them throughout their lives. It’s all about prevention and education.”

She added that part of her department’s responsibilities includes safety fairs like the ones in Brookhaven this week.

“It is our agency’s responsibility to provide Mississippians the education they need on brain injury prevention,” she said. “That’s part of our job.”

The group gave away helmets Wednesday morning at Mamie Martin Elementary School, Thursday at 8:30 a.m. at Brookhaven Elementary and 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Lipsey Middle School. The week’s final event will be at 8:30 a.m. Friday at Brookhaven Academy.

Visit the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services website at www.mdrs.ms.gov or call (601) 853-5397 for more information about the agency and safety programs.