After a long winter, Billings residents are beginning to spend more time outside, which could be dangerous if they aren't being cautious of their surroundings. 

In the spring and fall, when pedestrian traffic increases, "they forget what they're supposed to do," said Billings Police Department Lt. Mark Cady. 

Pedestrians, especially children, do not always heed the age-old advice to look both ways, stop at street crossings and wear protective equipment when cycling and that could lead to injury, he said. 

"Kids are walking to school and riding their bikes," Cady said. "People need to keep their eyes open and watch for the bikes."

This week one adult and two children have been hit by vehicles.  

At 4 p.m. Tuesday on the 600 block of Terry, a 9-year-old boy who was riding his bike was hit by a motorist. The boy rode out into the street in front of the car, said BPD Sgt. Jason Gartner.

About the same time on Tuesday, a pedestrian crossing North 28th Street was hit by a vehicle. He fell backward and hit his head.

And on Wednesday, a 10-year-old girl was taken to Billings Clinic after being hit by a car at about 5:30 p.m. in front of Miles Avenue School.

A city ordinance implemented in 2001 requires children under the age of 16 to wear a helmet.

Noncompliance could result in a $500 fine or a confiscated bike for the rider or the rider's guardian.

However, BPD crime analyst Becky Shay said a July 2013 citation was the only one issued since 2007. 

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Preventing brain injuries can keep people from spending a life with a devastating disability. 

"If you scrape your knee or break your arm, you can bandage it up or put a cast on it," said Andrew Goss, Billings Clinic injury prevention coordinator. "There's only so much you can do with a brain injury."

Simply wearing a helmet can make a biker, skier, skateboarder or equestrian less likely to sustain a head injury.

"It's not going to prevent an injury, but it will reduce the impact on that person's brain," said Kristen Morgan, program director at the Brain Injury Alliance of Montana

In 2010, 2.5 million emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths in the United States were associated with a traumatic brain injury, Morgan said. 

Morgan has seen skiers,"whose helmets are just split apart," and they have been able to walk away without serious injury.

Having a helmet fitted properly to the child's head is crucial, Goss and Morgan agree.

Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare both provide helmets at a low cost. At Billings Clinic, bike helmets can be purchased for $8 and ones designed for skateboarders can be purchased for $10.

For Goss, it's a simple equation. It's $6 to $8 for a helmet or potentially hundreds of thousands in medical bills.

"If that's the gamble," Goss said. "I'm going to gamble on the helmet every time."

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Chris Cioffi covers city news for The Billings Gazette in Montana.