Keep your head

(Photo by Samantha Moranville)

Saugerties police, Diaz Memorial Ambulance service, and village trustees are banding together to ensure that local youngsters who cannot afford bicycle helmets get them.

The organizations are asking the public to get involved as well. Anyone with a bicycle helmet that they no longer need is asked to drop it off at either Village Hall, the police station, or at the Diaz ambulance building where the helmets will be inspected to make sure they are still in good, usable shape.

State law requires that any youngster under 14-years-old must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, skateboard, or scooter. On any given day, however, numerous kids can be seen in the village and town not wearing a helmet.


Police Chief Joseph Sinagra, Lisa Benjamin, co-manager of Diaz, and Mayor William Murphy say that many of the youngsters, when asked why they are not wearing a helmet, reply that their family can’t afford one.

That’s about to change with this new program.

“This is all part of our community out-reach program,” said Benjamin. “It’s incredible the number of kids out there that are not wearing a helmet.”

Benjamin added that she and fellow co-manager of Diaz, Jerry Pearlman, discussed the problem with Sinagra and came up with a plan to raise money in the community to purchase helmets to distribute to youngsters at bicycle safety programs.

Upon hearing about the program, Murphy said the village would begin collecting used bike helmets that are in good, usable shape and give them to the helmet distribution program.

Murphy and his family have been giving out bike helmets to kids whose families can’t afford them in their neighborhood for several years.

Sinagra said that as his department and Diaz get helmets, either through helmet donations to the village or through monetary donations from the community and local businesses, a bicycle safety day will be scheduled where the helmets will be given out.

Additionally, Diaz ambulances and police cars will carry helmets with them to be distributed by officers and EMTs and Paramedics to kids they see who are not wearing a helmet.

“We want to be known as the place families can come for safety equipment,” Sinagra said. In addition to now giving out bike helmets, the police department also gives out child safety seats and teaches new parents how to install them.

The police and Diaz will be presenting educational programs to youngsters to teach them the importance of wearing helmets.

The state law that requires kids to wear helmets while bicycling, skateboarding or riding a scooter says that if the kid is caught by cops, it’s the child’s parent that gets the ticket, which is accompanied by a $50 fine. Sinagra said he’d rather see the police educate the kids so it doesn’t get to the point where tickets are issued.

Anyone who would like to donate money to the helmet program can do so by making a check out to the Diaz Ambulance Helmet Fund and either dropping it off at the ambulance building or mailing it to PO Box 147, Saugerties, NY 12477, or dropping it off at Village Hall or the police station. Police ask that they be in good, usable shape.

Because Diaz is a nonprofit, all donations are tax deductible.