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Safety officials offer advice for young bicyclists

April 18, 1998

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Ginny Klejnowski knows how hard it can be to convince children to follow bicycle safety rules.

As part of her job with the Eastern Panhandle Community Traffic Safety Program, she promotes bicycle safety, but sometimes her toughest audience is her own children, ages 14, 13, 10 and 9.

She said she has to remind them to wear their helmets and follow the safety rules.

The deaths of two Tri-State-area children within four days from bicycle accidents shows how dangerous bicycling can be, she said."That's going to hit home more than anything," Klejnowski said.

Two area children also have been injured on bicycles.

Since the weather has warmed up, now is the time for parents to explain the importance of bicycle safety to their children, she said.

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Washington County Hospital spokeswoman Beth Kirkpatrick said national studies have shown bicycle helmets reduce injuries by 85 percent.

Kirkpatrick said that it is important to wear the helmet correctly.

"Sometimes you see the helmet pushed too far back and it is not covering the forehead," Kirkpatrick said.

In Maryland, bicyclists 16 and younger are required to wear helmets. In Pennsylvania, those 12 and under must wear helmets and in West Virginia, the age requirement is 15 and younger.

West Virginia State Police Sgt. Ric Robinson said that even when bicyclists have the right-of-way, riders should remember that a car will win in an accident.

"When it is car vs. bike, sometimes you've got to get out of the way," Robinson said.

Robinson said that while the law calls for bicyclists to ride with traffic, he believes that younger riders should travel facing traffic so they can see vehicles approaching and move out of the way.

Robinson said he believes children should not ride their bicycles on the road until they are at least in the first or second grade.

Robinson said children's skill level more than their age should determine if they are ready to ride on roads. Parents should take their children to quiet streets or to parks if they are too young to ride on most streets, he said.

Klejnowski said children should be able to turn to look behind them without swerving the bicycle before being allowed to ride on streets.

"When you're talking about young people, you wish they'd know the rules of the road," Chambersburg Police Chief Michael DeFrank said.

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