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Valley Perspective

Safety First, to Avert Bike Tragedies

April 12, 1998

The tragic accident that killed a 12-year-old Van Nuys boy last week should remind parents that children ought to wear protective gear and follow the rules of the road when riding bicycles. Emmanuel Jimenez was hit by a car as he rode his bike near his home. He was not wearing a helmet.

Since 1994, state law has required helmets on bike riders younger than 18. California Highway Patrol statistics suggest that fewer children have died in bicycle accidents since the helmet law took effect. Among them: Peter Beal, the Granada Hills boy who credits a bike helmet with saving his life when a car hit him last year.

Other smart gear includes bright clothing, reflectors and a flashing light. But gadgetry and padding offer only so much protection in an accident. Careful riding can help avoid collisions. Children should be taught to ride predictably in a straight line and not to weave in and out between parked cars. Hand signals alert drivers to turns. Obey all traffic laws and ride with the flow of traffic.

Having a bike gives kids a sense of freedom, the ability to explore their neighborhoods. But riding in a city like Los Angeles demands more than just balance. A few precautions and careful attention can help avert tragedy.

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