Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wearing a helmet like it matters

Like many Americans, I've been expected to wear a bike helmet since I started riding. I've been pressured and guilt-tripped when I don't. And I've seen the reporting, e.g. when someone drives their car into a bicyclist's leg, that the biker wasn't wearing a helmet, and was therefore somewhat to blame for their injuries. For years I'd "forget," or decline, or make excuses why it wasn't convenient. Finally I buckled under (my chin) and I've been wearing a helmet consistently for the last couple of years.

I've also been reading up. Did you know, for instance, that the standard for bike helmets is 'intended to give protection in the kind of accident in which the rider falls onto the road without other vehicles being involved.’ That bike-related head injuries have not decreased with helmet use, and may even have increased? Most relevant to the "Where's your helmet?" crowd, that thirty times as many motorists as bicyclists die from head injuries every year, and that per hour of use, bikes pose a lower risk of fatal injury than cars?

Like I said, I've been convinced. I'm wearing my (probably useless) helmet in both types of high-risk vehicles. And the conclusion so far is that none of the people who have urged me and others to wear helmets take it at all seriously. Even the ones who own helmets and who have heard my explanation of the risks, haven't been wearing theirs. It's enough to un-convince me. I'm ready to stop being the only sweaty-headed fool. Sure, I'll let my experiment run a few more months -- no rash decisions -- and I'll probably get a motorcycle helmet to keep the snow out in winter, but I'll probably do like everyone else and let fashion and feelings dictate my helmet (non-) use. If anyone has a problem with that, they can put their melon where their mouth is and buckle under for a turn.

p.s. for those of you who think bike helmets are scientifically proven safer:

'Claims that "helmets reduce the incidence of serious head injuries by as much as 85%" are almost all based on a series of studies that gathered data from Seattle-area emergency rooms in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Even the authors of these studies admit that these studies suffer from serious methodological flaws. For example, the same data can be used to show that "helmets reduce the incidence of leg injuries by as much as 72%'
[ref] [via]

I encourage you to google it all for yourself, but if a website repeats the common "85% safer" statistic, it's probably from the Seattle study above, and the rest of their facts may be just as valid.

p.p.s. After years of study, Dr. Ian Walker can't tell if helmets increase safety: "I do not know whether or not bicycle helmets save lives. And, critically, nor does anybody else."

1 comment:

  1. At least one company tried to sell a motoring helmet.

    In some states, it's illegal to wear a helmet while driving on public roads!