CHILDREN will be legally obliged to wear helmets while cycling as part of a strategy being drawn up by safety authorities.
Parents of children who break the law would be fined under the plan, the Irish Independent has learnt.
And cycle safety training for all seven- and eight-year-olds is also to be rolled out in all schools nationwide as part of the school curriculum.
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is looking at making helmets compulsory for children up to 13 years as part of its next road safety strategy.
Eight cyclists aged under 15 died on our roads in the past three years.
The mandatory helmet measure is recommended in an EU-wide audit of child safety that has just been published.
"We are actively considering whether there is now a safety case for introducing mandatory cycle helmets for children up to 13 years," RSA chief executive Noel Brett said yesterday.
Mr Brett noted the EU report, international evidence showing the safety benefits of the measure, and child safety research by Professor Alf Nicholson, consultant paediatrician at Temple Street Children's Hospital in Dublin.
Prof Nicholson has called for the mandatory use of bicycle helmets for children.
The measure is likely to be included in the safety plan currently being prepared and which will be approved by the Government once it is cleared by the RSA.
The measures in the plan will be rolled out by 2016.
In the meantime, the plan is likely to generate considerable public debate, with road safety groups arguing it would save lives, and others accusing authorities of introducing another 'nanny state' measure.
Many parents already insist that their children wear cycle helmets -- while there has been a huge increase in cycling in recent years across all ages.
International research has showed that countries with mandatory helmet laws had significantly reduced head injuries.
Wearing a helmet could reduce the risk of suffering a head injury by 85pc and a severe brain injury by 75pc.
As many as 96pc of child cyclists were not wearing helmets when fatal, serious and minor injuries occurred.
Helmets are already mandatory in 13 European countries, Australia and New Zealand.
The introduction of a bicycle helmet law in the state of Victoria in Australia in 1990 increased the number of cyclists wearing helmets by almost 50pc and was credited with reducing the number of cyclists killed or admitted to hospital after sustaining a head injury by 48pc.
The UK is also planning to make helmets compulsory for children under 14.
Other countries that made it compulsory for under-15s to wear helmets include Sweden, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Malta and Iceland.
The Child Safety Report 2012 for 31 countries prepared by the European Child Safety Alliance in association with the EU, found a total of 125 children and adolescents aged up to 19 are killed in Ireland every year.
More than half -- a total of 69 deaths -- could be prevented if Ireland emulated the Netherlands, one of the safest countries in Europe for children.