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Friday, March 26, 1999 Published at 04:01 GMT


Bike helmets 'on prescription'

The trust wants to raise the number of children wearing helmets

Health workers around the country are handing out "prescriptions" for children's cycling helmets.

The Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust (BHIT) hopes to encourage more children to wear the headgear.

It believes this will lead to a reduction in the number of serious head injuries sustained by children each year.

However, some cyclist groups say improved driver awareness is more important to safety than helmets.

Reduced price

Each year about 100,000 children need hospital treatment as a result of cycling accidents, the trust says.

[ image: Many cyclists say better driver awareness, not helmets, is the key to safety]
Many cyclists say better driver awareness, not helmets, is the key to safety
More than 1,300 of those die or are seriously injured. Head injuries are responsible for 70% of deaths.

But, the charity says, only 18% of young cyclists wear protective headgear.

It will offer subsidised helmets on "prescription". They will cost £8.50.

A similar scheme run in Reading increased the proportion of local child cyclists wearing helmets from 23% to 69%.

The Trust aims to increase the national level from 18% to at least 40%.

Cutting deaths

Angie Lee, director of BHIT said: "Paying £15 or £20 for a helmet is beyond a lot of parents and children and parents, so we had to bring down the price if we wanted to make a real cut in the number of deaths and injuries."

[ image: Tessa Jowell endorsed the project]
Tessa Jowell endorsed the project
She added that the choice of helmets took into consideration some children's fear that a helmet would make them look "nerdy", so there will be a choice of colours.

Government and Lottery money will fund the initiative.

Public Health Minister Tessa Jowell said: "Cycling is a healthy activity that we strongly encourage and are keen to make as safe as possible for children to enjoy.

"Wearing a helmet can greatly reduce the risk of death or serious head injury following an accident."

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