DANVILLE -- While stressing the importance of proper use of bicycle helmets and traffic safety, San Ramon resident Mark Ballock recounted his nearly-fatal bicycle accident that landed him in a trauma unit with a severe concussion, memory loss, a broken leg and a separated shoulder.
The 2010 accident could have easily ended his life or left him paralyzed -- had it not been for the helmet he was wearing.
The 56-yr-old certified cycling instructor spoke at this year's San Ramon Valley Street Smarts traffic safety campaign kickoff held Thursday afternoon at the newly-remodeled Veterans Memorial building at 400 Hartz Avenue.
Officials announced upcoming outreach events geared to educate drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians about traffic safety.
During opening remarks, Terry Koehne, a program advisory committee member, remembered three children killed in recent traffic collisions in Danville, Pittsburg and most recently, in Byron.
"We have suffered tragedies in Danville and countywide," said Contra Costa County District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen, also referring to 12-year-old Burgess Hu from Discovery Bay. The Excelsior Middle School student was struck and killed as he was riding his bike to school Monday morning by a driver in an SUV. He was wearing his bike helmet when the accident occurred on Byron Highway in front of his school, according to police.
Nationally, 800 cyclists were killed in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another half-a-million people were hurt in bicycle-related injuries landing them in emergency rooms around the country.
In fact, in any given year, 26,000 of the bicycle-related injuries to children and adolescents are traumatic brain injuries treated in the ER, according to the CDC.
Some are mild concussions with little long-term, serious consequences. While other head injuries, if not fatal, are often, more insidious and can have debilitating and permanent physical and cognitive impairments, which can complicate lives forever.
Health experts say many lives can be saved and serious injuries averted by people protecting their head and neck by proper use of protective gear such as bicycle helmets.
And although millions of Americans regularly ride bicycles, the reality is that less than half wear bicycle helmets.
The CDC reported that one national survey found that only 48% of children between the ages of five and 14 wore bicycle helmets when riding. Older children were less likely to wear helmets than younger children, according to the survey.
At the local level, the Street Smarts program is trying to put a dent in these statistics by increasing public awareness and education through outreach programs.
Danville Police Chief Steve Simpkins said overall, traffic collisions are trending downward, and attributes it to a "three E's philosophy of education, engineering, and enforcement." Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich, San Ramon Mayor Bill Clarkson, San Ramon Valley Unified School District school board President Ken Mintz, and Supervisor Andersen all presented various components of the Street Smarts program at the meeting.
The 2013-14 program includes: a 60-second video contest for middle school students; high school poster contests to create traffic safety ads which will be displayed on buses, transit shelters and street banners; safety educational assemblies and bike rodeos for elementary school students to practice bicycle skills and helmet checks; and a walk/bike challenge.
Simpkins said programs such as Street Smarts makes positive impacts in communities. "This program is hugely helpful," he said. "This is a terrific idea. If we can save even one person's life, it's a success in my mind."
State Farm insurance, one of the sponsors, presented a $10,000 check to the program.
For more program details, visit www.street-smarts.com.