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KIDS GET CRASH COURSE ON BIKE SAFETY

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Ryan Ashby heard about the bicycle accident the day after it happened.

"I was very, very sad because I didn't want my friend to die," he said.Nearly 400 students from first through sixth grades sat spellbound in the gym at Lincoln Elementary, 501 E. 3900 South, waiting to hear what the high school senior would say next.

Tony Hyde, 15, had been shooting baskets at Ashby's home. He was riding home on his bike along 500 East when he collided with a pedestrian.

The pedestrian was not seriously injured, and Hyde's bike wasn't damaged. But the youth could not get his feet out of his bike's pedal straps, and he fell over sideways, striking his head.

When Ashby found out about the accident he went to the hospital, where his best friend had been airlifted by rescue helicopter, then taken into the intensive care unit.

"I walked in, and I saw Tony lying there on the bed. His eyes were open but he was asleep."

Tony Hyde was in a coma. A hole had been bored in his forehead so that a tube could drain fluid that built up in his brain.

The accident happened on April 24, 1992. Five days later, the 15-year-old died.

"There's something I didn't tell you guys," Ashby said at the end of his presentation. "This is Tony's helmet," holding up a shiny black bicycle helmet.

"If Tony had been wearing this very helmet that night, he would be here."

Ashby and four other seniors from Granite High School spent Tuesday afternoon teaching the elementary school kids about bicycle safety, stressing the importance of wearing helmets. In March, the seniors - all members of the DECA Club at Granite - launched a campaign called RAD, Ride Against Disaster.

The lecture is lively, punctuated with school cheers and a skit, RAD membership cards, suggestions about finding the right bike size, tips about how to remember to always wear a helmet while bicycling and information about injuries.

The name, RAD, is a modern slang word, shortened from "radical," that translates as cool and a little daring. That is an emphasis of pitch because some elementary stu-dents don't think it's very cool to ride bikes while wearing helmets.

Ashby got the youngsters to repeat after him, "I'm RAD," and said if they pledged to always use helmets while biking they could get a RAD membership card.

"How many of you guys have seen the advertisement with John Stockton - where he's riding on his mountain bike?" he asked. Everybody held up their hands.

"What does he have on his head?"

His helmet, the kids chanted.

"That's right, he has his helmet. Is John Stockton cool?"

They all agreed enthusiastically that Stockton is cool.

At the heart of the program is the tragedy of unnecessary death. Bicycle accidents caused an estimated 150 traumatic brain injuries among Utah children in 1992, the year Tony Hyde was killed. Of these, state officials estimate, 135 would have been avoided if the bicyclists had been wearing helmets.

Since the Granite High group started their program, they estimate, they have taken their demonstration and lecture to more than 30 elementary schools and other youth gatherings. An estimated 12,000 students have learned about the dangers of riding bikes without helmets.

The program began as a project by Granite's DECA Club, a national organization of marketing students, and the seniors putting on the program were all members of the group.

After they graduate, they plan to continue the campaign, working from the various colleges they will attend. Ryan Law, one of those helping with the show, will be going to Utah State University and said he has already heard about northern Utah schools that would like to see the presentation.

John Otis, president of the DECA group, said the project will be expanded next year.

"After the assemblies I've had kids come up to me and tell us they're going to ride with their helmets," he said.

"I figure if we can get one kid from every school to wear their helmet, it makes it all worthwhile," said Ashby.

He added that the group recently won a $500 award from the Utah Public Health Association to keep the project going.

At the end of the presentation, Lincoln Elementary principal Marilyn Copeland told the students she always wears her helmet when she gets on her bike, even though it is a "really, really, really dorky" one.

However, she said, her mother has promised to buy a new one for her birthday.

Trung Nguyen, in Laura Ratieta's second-grade class, was impressed. "I learned to wear my helmet . . . every day when I ride my bike," he said.