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Safe Kids hosts helmet giveaway, offers safety tips
Kevin Holbrook, an officer with the Gainesville Police Department, demonstrates how to properly wear a helmet on second-grader Mekhi Ellison, 7, Thursday during a Safe Kids Gainesville/ Hall County bike helmet program at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School. The program educates second-graders about the importance of wearing bicycle helmets and obeying street traffic laws. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Every year in January and February, Hall County and Gainesville second-graders learn about helmet safety.

That’s something that hits home for Kevin Holbrook, a police officer who works with Safe Kids Gainesville/Hall County, an international network of coalitions that provides injury prevention programs.

“When I was younger, one of my best friends — I actually watched him get hit by a car, and he was killed while riding his bicycle,” Holbrook said.

As an instructor, Holbrook aims to prevent as many of those accidents as he can. And he said thanks to programs like this one, Hall County sees fewer accidents than some other areas.

Still, each year 267,000 children nationally are injured due to bicycles, according to Kim Martin, coalition coordinator with Safe Kids. And 135 children die from head injuries suffered in bicycle accidents.

Representatives from area fire, police and emergency medical services visit schools to teach kids how to properly wear a helmet and other safety equipment, how to check their bicycle’s brakes and other mechanics and what rules they need to follow.

“When they shake their head (the helmet) doesn’t need to fit like a bobble head,” Holbrook said.

The kids watch a video, listen to the instructors and those who need helmets get them.

Wearing a helmet can help prevent serious injuries, but following road rules can help prevent accidents in the first place. Holbrook said the instructors explain that bicyclists have to follow the same rules drivers do.

“They may not have a license, but they still have to follow those same rules for their safety,” Holbrook said.

Safe Kids has done the program in area schools for about 12 or 13 years, Martin said. Last year, the group handed out 2,500 helmets to area students.

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