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Critical Days of Summer fast approaching, watch for children on bicycles

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Spring is here and with it comes the desire to spend many hours outside enjoying the weather. As activities around base kick-off for summer fun, it is important parents and children on base know the rules for bicycle and pedestrian safety.

"Our role is to educate and make sure the word gets out for safety," said Tech Sgt. Shane Christian, 28th Bomb Wing Ground Safety NCOIC. "There is a misconception out there that the safety office is just for active-duty personnel.  That is not true - we are concerned for the safety of all people while on our base."

The Air Force mandates that all persons, children included, who ride a bicycle wear a properly fastened, approved bicycle helmet while on an Air Force installation. The Air Force also instructs any pedestrian wearing roller skates, roller blades, riding a skateboard, or any other wheeled device wear an approved safety helmet and elbow and knee pads. Other safety rules include:

· Wearing a highly visible outer garment during the day and outer garment containing reflective material at night on roadways; bicycles must be equipped with a white front reflector visible from 500 feet and a rear red reflector visible from 300 feet;
· Obey all traffic signs, signals, and laws;
· No wearing headphones or talking on a cell phone while riding;
· Always watching for cars and oncoming traffic;
· Using hand signals to let motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians know what you intend to do.  Also, while on Ellsworth AFB, when a usable bicycle path is provided along the roadway, bicycle riders must use the path and not the roadway to mitigate risks that are associated with riding in a traffic environment.
· When using a roadway, bicyclists will adhere to all vehicle rules of the road.

"I can't emphasize enough the importance of wearing the proper protective equipment when riding," said Christian. "Almost all injuries are preventable. Head trauma is the most serious and life-threatening of all injuries and can be prevented from wearing a helmet."

In 2010 in the United States, 800 bicyclists were killed and an estimated 515,000 sustained bicycle-related injuries that required emergency department care, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC estimates that roughly half of these cyclists were children and adolescents under the age of 20. Additionally, the CDC reports 26,000 of these bicycle-related injuries to children and adolescents are traumatic brain injuries treated in emergency departments annually.

Fortunately, Ellsworth has maintained an excellent record during the past five years of no reported on-base bicycle accidents according to Kyle Battell, Manager of the 28th Security Forces Squadron Reports and Analysis office.

The "Critical Days of Summer" start Memorial Day weekend in May and go through Labor Day weekend in September. Historically these months are when most accidents occur, said Christian. "We have enjoyed a relatively safe few years but that is also the time when we need to be very vigilant and adhere to all rules that are set in place.  Complacency can be very dangerous," said Christian.