Over the next few months, young children across the Capital Region will be stopped by the police and ticketed, but not for breaking the law.
For the 16th year, they’ll be rewarded under the Safe Summer Bike Helmet Program, which uses positive reinforcement to encourage kids and their parents to practice helmet safety during the summer, whether that be on a bike, rollerblades, skateboard or scooter.
The program was created by Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, but he now has help from 10 police departments, two town supervisors and a handful of corporate sponsors.
“[Police] are going to be stopping kids ... and they are going to be saying ‘I am going to have to ticket you,’ ” Tedisco said, “ ‘but I am going to have to ticket you for obeying the law, for being a good citizen.’ And on that ticket is a free ice cream cone from Stewart’s, a free ice cream cone from Ben & Jerry’s and a free ice cream cone from Friendly’s.”
On Thursday, Tedisco and members of his team went to Clifton Common to promote the program. They handed out more than 200 tickets for free ice cream and several helmets. Later in the afternoon, Tedisco went to the Glenville Municipal Center to promote and educate people about the program there, as well. According to Tedisco, more than 4,000 ice cream tickets will be given out this summer, as well as more than 400 bike helmets.
“Just the awareness around reminding children how important it is to take the precautions — wear the helmet — I just think is a great thing,” Glenville town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said. “It is all about the awareness.”
The Martin, Harding & Mazzotti law firm donates the helmets for the program. Last summer, Glenville police gave out more than 50 helmets, according to Chief Michael D. Ranalli. Stewart’s Shops, Friendly’s and Ben & Jerry’s provide the coupons for the free ice cream, which are attached to the tickets.
“I have been on my street, where a police officer has stopped and handed out coupons to kids,” Koetzle said. “They light up. They think they just got gold. It is a great program, the kids just love it.”
Caden Maggs, 6, said he loves the idea of being rewarded for wearing his helmet.
“Awesome,” he said.
Luke Bolle, 4, and his brother, Ian, 7, zoomed around on their bikes in the Glenville Municipal Building parking lot Thursday alongside Tedisco. They both said they think wearing a helmet is very important. Luke Bolle explained he has learned if you do not wear a helmet there could be negative consequences.
“Because you will fall,” he said, “crack your head open.”
“If you don’t have a helmet on, you could split your head,” he said.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about a half-million people were injured in bicycle-related accidents in 2010. More than half of those injured were children and teenagers, and more than 25,000 of those injuries were brain injuries as a result of not wearing a helmet. According to Ranalli, children younger than 14 in New York state are required by law to wear a helmet while bicycling.
He said the Safe Summer program is crucial and has always been well received.
“Any encouragement we can give them to wear their helmets … is a good thing for us,” he said. “It is a great way to have a positive interaction with the kids.”