SANTA CLARITA — Beginning Saturday, sheriff's deputies here will issue citations to youths wearing bicycle helmets.
But these are the good kind of tickets--good for admission to an amusement park, credit at local fast food outlets, and bicycle equipment. The incentives are part of the Helmet Patrol Program sponsored by the city's Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department and the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station.
Cyclists under 18 have been required by California law to wear a helmet since last year, but police agencies statewide only started enforcing the requirement this month. Organizers of the helmet patrol hope to raise awareness of the law and bicycle safety in general.
"The goal of the program is to create excitement and ultimately encourage children to start wearing their helmets on a regular basis," said Tony Castagnola, volunteer bicycle coordinator.
Deputies will drive through Santa Clarita's four main communities--Canyon Country, Newhall, Saugus and Valencia--searching for young bicyclists.
"When we find a kid or group of kids who are wearing helmets, we'll pull them over and give them a positive citation," Deputy Tom Drake said. "The kids always want us to use our lights and sirens, anyway. It will be an adventure for them."
Children without helmets will be given bicycle safety information, Drake said. The Sheriff's Department is also stocking up on helmets and will distribute them to families who can't afford to purchase them.
The program is scheduled to operate through June, and during the summer months will involve the sheriff station's bicycle patrol unit that operates along Valencia's 12-mile-long trail system.
Performance Cyclery in Saugus, Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park and McDonald's have contributed gift certificates and some residents have donated new helmets for the program, Castagnola said.