PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — While more people are using helmets when biking and skating than ever, many people are not wearing their helmets the right way which could lead to injuries.
“Helmet misuse is pretty high,” stated Suzanne Grace, injury prevention coordinator for Maine Medical Center’s Trauma Program. Either non-use is definitely an issue, because if you are not wearing it it can’t help you at all, but if you are not wearing it properly it is not going to be able to do it’s job as intended.”
Grace says kids under the age of 16 are required, not only to wear a helmet while riding in Maine, but the law also requires proper use.
As an injury prevention specialist and EMT, Grace says she has seen the consequences of misuse first-hand.
“If a helmet is not fitted properly, it could certainly fall forward over the face, block vision, things like that,” she explained. “Their forehead is exposed, they have an increased risk of injury that way. If they don’t strap it on at all, it is not going to hold on to their head in a crash.”
“In both of the bad crashes I’ve taken, I have had the helmet on to protect me,” said Jim Tasse, director of the Maine Bicycle Safety Education Program. “Went over and landed on my face, and a properly fitted helmet protects your head and face.”
Tasse travels across the state promoting bike safety.
“Approximately 90% of bicycle crashes are self-inflicted,” he explained. “There is no one else involved, there is nothing else involved, it is just sort of pilot error on the part of the bicyclist.”
“The helmet is like a seat belt, it doesn’t prevent you from getting in a crash, but if you get in a crash it is a great thing to have on so that you are a little bit safer,” he added.
He says when it comes to fitting a helmet properly, there are three tests a helmet must pass.
“We talk about the eyes, ears and mouth test,” said Tasse. “You want it to ride level on your head, take one or two fingers, put them on your eyebrows and your helmet should touch it right there.”
“The buckles meet right under your ear,” he explained, as he adjusted a helmet to demonstrate. “Making this adjustment makes sure the helmet stays in that nice level position.”
“When we open our mouth we can feel it pull down on our head a little bit,” he continued, as he finished strapping the helmet on.
“They are good for one significant impact, so if your helmet has cracks or dents in it, it really should be replaced,” added Tasse.
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine and Maine Department of Transportation are partners in the Maine Bicycle Safety Education Program. Through the program, kids and adults are given instruction on safe cycling. The Maine Bicycle Helmet Program is one of their projects, which distributes helmets to community groups for little or no charge.