Injury Prevention

National ThinkFirst Injury Prevention Foundation

Brain and spinal cord injuries are the leading killer of young people, taking the lives of more than 22,000 children under the age of 20 each year. In order to address these distressing statistics, FNI sponsors ThinkFirst, an award winning public education effort targeting this high-risk age group. The mission of the National ThinkFirst Injury Prevention Foundation is to prevent brain, spinal cord and other traumatic injuries through the education of individuals, community leaders and the creators of public policy. FNI’s ThinkFirst programs include ThinkFirst for Kids (2nd-4th grades), ThinkFirst for Teens (6th-12th grades), and Buckle Your Brain (a comprehensive helmet safety program).

The Program

Each year in the United States over 800 bicyclists are killed and another 55,000 are injured. Of those injured, half are the result of bicycle falls or improperly sized bikes. Helmets worn correctly and consistently reduce the risk of bicycle related death and injury when a crash occurs. Helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85% and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88%.

One of the programs that was developed in response to the survey information is called Buckle Your Brain.TM The mission of Buckle Your BrainTM is to help prevent brain and spinal cord injuries by educating the youth of our community about the critical functions of the brain and spinal cord, and by reinforcing helmet use and other good safety behaviors.

Implementation The Buckle Your BrainTM Program is presented by Injury Prevention Specialists who are dedicated to making people aware of the dire consequences that could occur when safety helmets are not worn. The program targets children from Kindergarten through grade five and addresses bicycle safety, proper helmet utilization, and the critical functions of the brain and spinal cord. The 60-minute educational presentation stresses the importance of wearing a safety helmet to protect the brain and ultimately save a LIFE. After a brief anatomy lesson, participants view a bicycle safety video. This is followed by a high energy interactive quiz which covers the rules of safe bike riding.

To reinforce the importance of wearing a helmet to protect the brain, educators use a watermelon to demonstrate to the students the risks of not wearing a helmet. The watermelon is dropped, both with and without a helmet. The helmeted melon is not damaged while the un-helmeted melon explodes, demonstrating the injuries they could sustain.

At the end of the presentation, each child is custom fitted with a bike helmet and read their “safety rights,” promising to wear their helmet to protect their brain. The Buckle Your BrainTM program distributes thousands of free helmets each year at school assemblies and community events. Since 1998, FNI Injury Prevention Programs have educated over 30,000 students and distributed more than 10,000 bicycle helmets throughout the region. At the end of each Buckle Your BrainTM assembly, children are introduced to Caught Being Safe!TM.

Caught Being Safe!TM(CBS!) began as an idea to make helmet utilization attractive to children. When children have been “caught” wearing a helmet they are given a Caught Being Safe!� sticker for their helmet and a free food coupon. To find children wearing helmets FNI teamed up with police officers, firefighters and ski patrol to reward young people who choose to wear helmets while bicycling, skateboarding, rollerblading, snow skiing or snow boarding.

Once the CBS! Team was in place, we were in need of local businesses to help with the program. Morley Companies designed and printed the first 10,000 CBS! stickers. McDonald’s Restaurants Inc. recognized the association between the mission of Caught Being Safe!TM and their focus on children and healthy lifestyles and agreed to print 10,000 coupons for free ice cream cones. We now had our rewards to move forward with the program.

Recognizing an opportunity to foster good relations with children, the Michigan State Police (MSP) joined CBS!. They distributed stickers and coupons to 900 patrol cars in both the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. Due to the efforts of the MSP and McDonald’s Restaurant Inc., Caught Being Safe!TM grew to become a statewide program. In what may be the largest bicycle helmet giveaway in Michigan, Field Neurosciences Institute, McDonald’s Restaurants and the Michigan State Police are sponsoring “Safety Saturday” which involves distributing 7,500 free helmets throughout Michigan at selected McDonald’s locations. To help keep the program growing, children who are “caught” wearing a helmet more than once will continue to receive stickers for their helmets. These children will be eligible for larger rewards by bringing their helmets to Field Neurosciences Institute community events scheduled throughout the year.

Caught Being Safe!TM has shown a significant increase in both helmet utilization and public awareness regarding the critical importance of wearing a bicycle helmet. This program has impacted not only children but adults as well. One local ski patrol has reported a 96% increase in their member’s helmet usage after partnering with Caught Being Safe!TM.

For more information on how to replicate this program in your community call Mary Kunz at 989-497-3075 or email her at