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Safety on two wheels: Helmet laws differ but basic rules do not

Do we sound like a broken record? We wonder, because we try to take every opportunity to encourage safe driving, motorcycling and biking behaviors. More and more, two-wheeled vehicles share the roads with sedans, semis and SUVs, and so many traffic accidents involving motorcycles or bicycles are avoidable.

When it comes to avoiding accidents, though, are some tactics better — more effective — than others? Multiple sources, including the California Highway Patrol’s Motorcyclist Safety Program, say that motorcycle helmets save lives. Indeed, California law requires helmets on all riders, regardless of age. The law has been in place for more than 20 years.

For bicyclists, though, helmets are optional — unless the rider is under 18. And even safety advocates disagree about the necessity or even wisdom of requiring adult bikers to wear helmets.

Still, as the days grow shorter, and now that school is in full swing, we can think of one very good reason for adults to wear helmets: They should model safe biking behaviors for kids.

More kids are biking in the morning and late afternoon hours, to and from school, to and from extracurricular activities. They will be sharing the roads with adult commuters, so the timing is perfect for adults to demonstrate how safety is done. Wear a regulation helmet and bright clothing, equip bikes with reflectors and bells, observe traffic laws — show kids how it’s done while keeping yourself and everyone around you safe.

Nationwide, kids under age 16 account for 39 percent of bike trips. They account for just 21 percent of the population.

Source: Alliance for Biking & Walking, “Bicycling and walking in the United States: 2014 Benchmarking Report,” Sept. 23, 2014

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