Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Ride a Motorcycle? Wear a Helmet

Lack of helmets causes problems for all, not just bike riders

Just as I am shocked to find out that people don't bother taking basic precautions when driving by putting on their seatbelts, I'm similarly shocked that there are people who routinely ride their motorcycles on public streets without helmets.
A McLeod Health study of motorcycle crash victims treated at the hospital from 2003 to 2007 reveals that only 28 percent of 167 patients wore helmets.
In 2007, 41 percent of fatally injured motorcycle operators and 53 percent of fatally injured passengers were not wearing helmets. That same year, the NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,784 motorcyclists and that 800 more could have been saved had they been wearing helmets.
Twenty-eight percent is just barely over one in four. How much more harm did they do to themselves by not bothering with a helmet? Do they wish they'd been wearing one while they recuperate in the hospital following their accidents? If they still retain higher brain function then it would be a good bet that most do wish they had worn a helmet.

I get the freedom of the wind in your hair, I get that helmets are stuffy, constraining and hot. But I've been involved in three accidents over my motorcycling life, two of them involving collisions with another vehicle. One was a t-bone where the jackass made an illegal left in front of me and I mashed into his car between the front and rear door. If I hadn't been wearing my helmet, I would have mashed my head into jelly on the road when I landed after having flipped up and over his car.

The other accident would have had similarly unpleasant and permanent results if I'd not been wearing my helmet. In each case I suffered numerous other injuries but the greatest damage was prevented by my helmet.

I'll never ride my motorcycle, or my bike for that matter, without my helmet (obviously a different helmet for my bike). My brain function is far too important to not do what I can to protect my head and brain in the event of a crash. But then, I'm a bit older now and have a sense of my mortality.

Here are a big bunch of stats from the bicycle side. Short version? Wearing a helmet increases the likelihood of walking away from an accident substantially. Wear one if you've got some brains worth saving.
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