Questions Posted to "Ask a Dispatcher"
Q. Whatever happened to enforcing the ordinance signed in 2005 for persons under 18 years of age not wearing bike helmets? I see an awful lot of kids (mostly middle school aged) not wearing helmets. Now I am having a really hard time enforcing it with my middle schooler. Is there any way to get this enforced?
What is the best approach to get middle & high schoolers to wear their helmets? They won't listen to their parents!
Dear Juneau Resident,
JPD has tried to use this particular topic to start conversations with kids about the importance of wearing a helmet. We have given ice cream coupons to those who are wearing helmets (courtesy McDonalds). Some families can't afford helmets so we have given away lots of helmets in conjunction with other agencies. Sometimes JPD does bike rodeos or other educational activities.
I will include the ordinance you mentioned at the end of this answer. The ordinance does allow for a $25 dollar fine that is waived if the bike rider brings in proof that they have purchased or acquired a helmet. As you know, having a helmet doesn't mean that the child is wearing the helmet so the issue can continue post-citation.
JPD officers have gone to court lots of times with young people found to have committed traffic offenses. More often than not, the accompanying parent pays the fine. You wonder if the juvenile does anything to pay that back or if the officer basically just fined the parent. That concern is even more emphasized the younger the fined person is. What does a 12 year old do to pay a $25 fine? It makes sense that the parent would pay and maybe ground or assign chores to the child. A parent finding a young person not wearing the helmet could institute that same punishment without the police or court being in the middle and many parents say they want to handle the issue without police involvement creating extra steps.
In your particular situation, you might want to make an appointment with one of the officers who does bike patrol. That officer can talk to your child about the ordinance and, more importantly, about how a serious bike wreck almost always means a head injury and that head injury could change a child's life forever. There is the possibility of a young person having a future with no sports, no school, no playing with friends, etc...
Here is another option, you can write down the time and place your child is in violation. Then you call JPD and ask that the child be cited and then you would participate as part of the prosecution. You would be agreeing to testify if necessary. It is like a citizen's arrest except with a ticket and the officer isn't required to witness the violation.
The dispatchers on duty today have raised about a dozen kids between them...the consensus was, "No helmet, no bike". Taking a bike away is something a parent can do that an officer cannot.
Here is the entire ordinance.
72.02.410 - Helmet required for persons under the age of 18.
No person under the age of 18 years shall ride or operate a bicycle on any public property or private property that is open for public use unless he or she is wearing a protective helmet designed for bicycle safety. Such helmet must meet or exceed the safety standards adopted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, or substantially similar standard, and shall be equipped with either a neck or chin strap that shall be fastened securely while the bicycle is in motion. Violation of this subsection shall be an infraction punishable by a $25.00 fine, provided that the fine shall be waived upon presentation of proof that a bicycle helmet that meets the requirements of this subsection was purchased or acquired for the bicycle operator after the citation was issued.