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UI Student Health to end free moped helmet service

BY STACEY MURRAY | AUGUST 20, 2012 6:30 AM

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The HeadStrong program to provide moped helmets free for University of Iowa students is in the final leg as it tries to distribute the remaining helmets from the spring campaign.

The program — which began in April but won’t renew its campaign this fall with a new push — provides free helmets in exchange for a signed pledge to wear one.

This idea by HeadStrong has been supported through recruiting students who do wear helmets to encourage those who don’t to start.

“We wanted it to come from peer agents,” said Tanya Villhauer, the Health Iowa coordinator. “We wanted to debunk the excuses.”

The UI Student Health Service used its own budget to provide the cranial-safety measures from funds that had been set aside.

With nearly 125 helmets sold and roughly 20 left, the program hopes to have increased awareness in students and have succeeded as shown by its own data gathering.

Each helmet cost $20, bringing the total cost to $3,000. The entire HeadStrong program cost officials approximately $4,000 to $5,000; participants were also provided T-shirts.

Student Health officials say there was a slight increase in the number of students wearing helmets after the push began, and the goal is to chip away at the remaining number of students who don’t wear a helmet.

Villhauer said students often use their own justifications on why they don’t wear the helmets. The reasons range from lack of storage for helmets to the most common rationalization: helmets are too expensive for the “poor college kids” who need them.

This is where MopedU and the HeadStrong program come into place. 

The program only requires a signed pledge in exchange for a possibly life saving precaution, all for free.

“Honestly, the biggest barrier is the cost of getting a helmet,” said Tommy Le, a MopedU employee.

Le said helmets can run a student anywhere from $45to $125, often more than what the average college student is willing to spend.

Although many aspire to push more people to wear helmets, as Villhauer noted, there are students wearing helmets on their mopeds.

“I’ve seen an increase in people wearing helmets. Many even rent them,” Le said.

Although officials won’t renew the program, there are still helmets available from the ongoing campaign. The vouchers can be redeemed at MopedU, located in the Old Capitol Mall.

George Etre, owner of Takanami and Formosa, sponsored a memorial last month for Caroline Found, an Iowa City teenager who was killed roughly a year ago in a moped accident.

Etre feels strongly on the subject of helmets for those who chose to ride around campus.

“Me, personally, I think there is a huge issue to be addressed,” he said.

With no helmet-law requirements in Iowa, students without these safety measures run only health-related risks; they have no legal obligations to protect themselves.

The bill by Found’s friends never passed , but the spirit of the bill remains, and Etre carries this spirit.

“It’s a no-brainer,” he said. “You need a helmet.”


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