Cal State Long Beach alumnus Gary Lofgren, 25, died on Oct. 20, 2014 due to a traumatic head injury after falling off his bicycle while not wearing a helmet.
In response, Gary’s mother Carmen created a campaign to raise awareness about the importance of wearing a helmet.
“I’m very motivated to raise awareness because people don’t even realize how in one second your life will change so much and how it could have been prevented by something so simple,” Carmen said.
This semester, CSULB students, staff and faculty have seen the “slow your roll” signs on campus indicating where not to ride their devices. However, the signs don’t force any of the riders to wear helmets.
Lieutenant Richard Goodwin of the CSULB University Police Department said he has not been aware of any specific head injuries on campus due to roller skating or bicycling; however, there have been sustained injuries to riders from falling off coasting devices such as skateboards.
“As to whether I think there should be such rule or regulation dictating such practice, I would say yes. Information, stories, statistics and the like have often shared the experiences of those who have fallen and been seriously injured due to their not wearing a helmet to provide better protection for their head,” Goodwin said. “Safety is not just about being careful it is about taking steps to provide a better environment to sustain a level of safety.”
According to the helmets.org, a website which offers statistics about helmets and injuries, , nearly 97 percent of bicyclists who have passed away were not wearing a helmet. Additionally, 73 percent of fatal bike crashes involved a head injury.
Carmen Lofgren said that an investigation by the Anaheim Police Department determined that Gary most likely fell off his bike and injured his head on the concrete after hitting some trash cans.
“I went back [to the scene] after it happened, I wanted to see where exactly he was on the street,” Carmen said. “One of the neighbor ladies said she held his head until the firemen got there, she was told him he wasn’t alone.”
After a month of being in a coma, Gary’s family decided to disconnect his life support.
“For me there’s a lot of reasons [for starting this awareness] to hopefully [help] avoid people getting in these kind of accidents, prevent injuries or deaths,” she said.
Carmen said her son always wanted to make an impact in people’s lives.
“He wanted to make a difference,” she said. “I feel like he’s making a difference [and] that his death wasn’t in vain. It’s something that carries on his spirit.”
Carmen was able to contact the CEO of Kaiser, Bernard Tyson, and together they made a campaign called The Helmet Awareness.
The campaign officially launched in May 2015, timed with National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.
According to the Kaiser Permanente newsletter, the campaign has partnered with Vision Zero Network, Safe Routes to School National Partnership and several local and regional bicycle coalitions.
The Kaiser campaign now offers health and safety information and giveaways to encourage bicyclists to wear a helmet.
“The Anaheim Fire Department, they tell Gary’s story as well, they made their own campaign: ‘Wear your helmet like a pro;’ however it only reaches to kids who are 14 and under,” Carmen said. “I [also] wanted to reach out to high school students. Once [they] turn eighteen, it’s their choice to chose to wear a helmet or not.”
Carmen said she decided to start with the Gary’s high school – Canyon High School in Anaheim Hills. She bought helmets to give away to the students as well as a poster for them to sign, promising they will protect themselves with a helmet when riding bikes, skateboards, etc.
“[The] staff was very happy, they felt it was very beneficial for the students, some said my whole class was crying,” she said. “It made a huge impact and I think the turnout with all the students who came, who signed and took a helmet shows that they’ll always chose to protect themselves.”
After organizing her first high school campus awareness event, Carmen said she wants to continue visiting as many high schools as possible.
“For me,” she said, “if your feet are coming off the ground, whether it’s a skateboard, a bicycle, a scooter or snowboard … you should be wearing a helmet.”