Mei Curry fell while trying out her new Rollerblades at Liberty Park. But the birthday girl was fine thanks to her full assortment of knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards and helmet.
"Look at all your safety stuff, this is perfect," said Salt Lake City police Detective Rick Wall, walking up to 9-year-old Mei. She grinned ear-to-ear as Wall explained he wanted to reward her for playing safe and handed her a Subway loyalty card, loaded with enough points for a six-inch sub.
Utah is one of 14 states with no law requiring cyclists, skateboarders and the like to wear a helmet. With more children playing outside during the summer months, police agencies across the state, including Salt Lake City, want to reinforce safe behavior, such as wearing a helmet, a life vest while swimming or properly using a crosswalk.
The reward program is part of the annual "Playin' Safe" campaign, one that Subway and law enforcement have run across the country for years. Police, primarily patrol officers, will have the Subway cards to give out all summer to children keeping themselves safe.
Wall is a big fan of the Subway program, as a father and a 20-year policeman.
"I've seen what can happen," he said.
So when Wall saw a woman and her stepdaughter cycling along Liberty Park, he ran out to stop them. He said he had to cite them for remembering to wear their helmets. People under 20 make up almost 60 percent of bicyclists who get hit by a car, according to the Utah Department of Health.
Despite the lack of mandatory helmet laws, more and more Utah children are wearing them anyway, according to a 2008 state health department survey, their most recent concerning helmet use. About 10 percent more pre-school-age children and 33 percent more elementary school-age children wore their helmets in 2008 than they did in 1994. Among secondary school-age children, the improvement was about 14 percent, according to the survey.
Adults also have become more responsible, with an increase of about 36 percent since 1994.
Besides encouraging good habits, Wall hopes the campaign allows children to have positive interactions with the police. Often, officers only come into contact with youngsters during a crisis, he said.
But on Monday, Wall had a chance to talk to a 3-year-old boy at the park and reward him for sticking close to his mom in a public place. Nolan Belliveau got a chance to treat his mom to a sandwich and Wall got a high-five.
The SLCPD has almost 30 brochures available on their website, slcpd.com/community/information-brochures, including several specifically aimed at child safety.
Find out more
Several child safety brochures are among almost 30 available by the Salt Lake City Police Department. Visit > slcpd.com/community/information-brochures.