Palmer Kling knows the importance of wearing a helmet when he rides and is passing that knowledge on to his peers.
The 10-year-old doesn't just goof around his neighborhood on his bicycle. The rising Blue Ridge Elementary School fifth-grader spends weekends speeding his motorcycles around road racing tracks with the Southeastern Minibike Roadracing Association and the Western-Eastern Racing Association.
Because of his experience, he recently was tapped by SafeKids East Central to give lectures on bicycle safety to other children.
Palmer said he always wears full-body protective leathers, gloves, helmet and boots on the track.
"So I'm protected," he told his classmates the day before school let out for summer. "You should wear a bicycle helmet to protect your brain and protect your head from injuries."
He explained how helmets protect, how to choose the proper size and fit, and to inspect it for cracks and scratches before riding.
Palmer said he once crashed after hitting a tire going about 60 mph, and he showed the pupils his leather suit marred by scratches and gouges from crashes.
"You never know how you are going to crash on a bike," he said. "You could crash by hitting a tree. You could hit a curb. A car could hit you. You never know how you are going to crash on a bicycle, so always wear your helmet."
Emergency responders agree that more children are injured on bicycles during the summer. Accidental injury is the leading cause of death for children younger than 14.
Maj. Michael Willis, the clinical manager for Gold Cross Emergency Medical Service, said that during summer EMS personnel respond to a slightly increased number of children struck by vehicles while biking and other bicycle accidents.
"The majority of the injuries could be subsided by wearing helmets a little bit more," he said, adding that motorists also should slow down in neighborhoods.
Willis said it is important for parents to talk to children about bike safety and the need for helmets.
Parental supervision is often the key to keeping children safe, especially around water.
"Children have higher incidences of drowning in their own swimming pool" than at Thurmond Lake, Willis said. "The majority of (prevention) is just supervision."
He recommended putting fences around swimming pools and installing ripple safety devices that set off an alarm inside the house if the surface of the water is disturbed. Also, sign up children who can't swim for lessons, he said.
There are a number of drowning and near-drowning incidents each year at Thurmond Lake, but most involve adults and alcohol, said Sgt. Doyte Chafin, who patrols with the Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Resources Division.
He often sees people swimming outside the designated swimming areas, where they could encounter steep drop-offs, strong currents or boating traffic.
"That is not a good idea, especially with children," Chafin said. "I would recommend they never, under any circumstances, swim alone."
All children younger than 10 must wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets while in boats, he said. Inflatable toys, such as inner tubes and floats, are not designed to be used as safety devices.
Another incident that increases during summer is kitchen fires, Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Danny Kuhlmann said.
"Kids at home alone, they leave stuff on the stove and they set the kitchen on fire," he said. "Kids need to be sure when they are cooking, to pay attention to what's going on."
The end of school also brings more juvenile-driven motorized vehicles onto the roads, including golf cars and ATVs, said Columbia County sheriff's Lt. Patricia Champion.
"We certainly do see a rise in these type accidents during the summer months," she said.
Only licensed drivers may operate golf cars. They cannot be driven on roads where the speed limit exceeds 35 mph, which excludes state highways and many county roads.
Golf cars cannot be driven on the shoulder of the road or in the right-of-way.
No matter what the emergency, Willis said it is essential to know CPR. Anyone who has or cares for children should take a CPR class, he said.
"That would help tremendously in some patients, keep them from dying, if earlier CPR would be performed instead of waiting on the ambulance," he said. "That few minutes of waiting on that fire truck and waiting on that ambulance can mean the difference between brain death and survivability. ... If they can do just that first few minutes of CPR, that can turn a child's life around real quick."
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