Christopher's legacy Bicycle helmets: Howard park dedicated in name of accident victim should help spread message.

July 01, 1998

CHILDHOOD should be a carefree time, it is often said. But adults should know better than that. Accidents remain the chief cause of death among children, killing at four times the rate of cancer, birth defects or homicide.

While many accidents are unavoidable, precautions can reduce the chance of injury and death. Making a child wear a bicycle helmet could save his life.

That's a message the family of Christopher Kelley has been sharing the past eight years. In 1990, 13-year-old Christopher was struck by a car while riding his bicycle. His fatal head injuries wouldn't have been as severe had he been wearing a bike helmet. His mother said the family had been planning to buy one for Christopher.

His death spurred Howard County lawmakers to pass an ordinance requiring children to wear bicycle helmets, the first of its type in the country. Maryland and 13 other states have passed similar laws. The laws call for police warnings instead of penalties, but they help save lives nonetheless. Nationally, in a survey of youth fatalities, deaths from bicycle accidents showed the greatest decline, 41 percent, from 1987 to 1995.

Those who remember Christopher have found a fitting way to acknowledge his death and its role in promoting safety. A plaque in his honor has been placed in Warfields Farm Community Park, fTC near the site of his accident. The Glenwood park, redeveloped by the county for $1.2 million, was dedicated Saturday. With tennis and basketball courts, picnic tables, walking trails and a pier, it looks a lot different than when Christopher played there.

Visitors to the western Howard County park will be reminded of Christopher by the plaque. But they are not the only ones who must heed the message. Only 1 percent of children injured in bicycle accidents nationwide last year were wearing helmets at the time. Bicycle helmets, like seat belts, make sense. A law shouldn't be needed to get parents to provide helmets for their children. A death shouldn't have to occur to make sure children wear them.

Pub Date: 7/01/98

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