Don't allow the popularity of scooters to overshadow the safety precautions.
By VERONICA GORLEY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- At Christmas, it seemed that every kid on the block wanted a scooter.
As school lets out for the summer, it seems that every kid on the block has one.
Now, it may be time to buy the headgear and pads that should go along with scooters, child safety experts say.
Protective gear is important for scooter riders. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, over 40,000 people were taken to emergency rooms in the United States last year due to injuries resulting from riding scooters, and the CPSC believes appropriate protective equipment could have prevented or reduced 60 percent of those injuries.
What's needed: Jacki DaLonzo, coordinator of the Columbiana County Safe Kids/Safe Communities program, is concerned with scooter safety.
"Kids aren't wearing the protective gear and helmets while riding scooters," DaLonzo said. "Education is certainly something that we're pushing."
Chelsea Aubel, 12, and sister Kori, 10, ride scooters on the dead-end road outside their house in West Middlesex.
Both girls said they do not attempt tricks with their scooters, and they have never gotten hurt while riding. They also said they do not wear protective pads while using scooters.
"I wear a helmet sometimes," Kori said.
Scooters, like skateboards, bicycles and in-line skating, require proper gear to avoid injury. The CPSC recommends that scooter riders wear the same protective gear used for in-line skating.
Knee and elbow pads and helmets may help to reduce severity and frequency of injuries. Wearing wrist guards reduces the likelihood of dislocated joints and broken bones. Scooter riders should always wear shoes, not sandals or high heels.
Other concerns: The National Safe Kids Coalition cautions that protective equipment should fit properly and not interfere with the child's vision, movement or hearing.
Besides protective gear, parents should keep in mind other safety issues involved with riding scooters.
The National Safe Kids Coalition suggests close supervision of scooter use for children under age 8. Parents should be aware that several scooters were recalled in 2000. They should check scooters often for cracks, loose parts and other defects.
Chelsea said she has had some problems with her scooter.
"Sometimes my scooter collapses," she said. "A lot of times it's not very tight."
The CPSC suggests riding scooters on smooth, paved surfaces without traffic. The use of scooters at night, on steep, downhill stretches or on streets or surfaces with water, sand or gravel is also discouraged.
Chelsea thinks that riding on the gravel-covered road is difficult, but her sister disagrees. Chelsea said she prefers using her scooter on the back roads of Conneaut Lake where her grandparents live.
"They have paved roads there," she said. "The roads are a lot nicer than here."
Stunts: Many of the injuries resulting from riding scooters occurs when children attempt to perform tricks with scooters. Unlike skateboards, most scooters are not built for stunts. They are less stable than a skateboard, because the standard platform is less than half the width of a skateboard, and the scooter has two wheels as opposed to the four that a skateboard has.
Parents should also be mindful of where scooter use is permitted. Some indoor facilities such as Section 8 Skate Park in Hubbard allow scooter use, but many parking lots forbid it.
Sergeant Patricia Garcar from the Youngstown Police Department says that individual stores must establish their own rules concerning scooter use in their parking lots.
According to Youngstown City Ordinances, scooter riders are not permitted to attach themselves to vehicles. In fact, since scooters are considered toys, they are not permitted in the street.
XFor more information on scooter safety and recalled scooters, check out the following Web sites: kidsource.com, cpsc.gov, safekids.org and safety-council.org.