Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Helmets don't make bicycling safer??

For years, the CDC (Disease Control) and NHTSA (Traffic Safety) government agencies have declared that bike helmets reduce the chance of a head injury by 85%. But that is changing.

Apparently that 85% number was the result of some casual statistical analysis, based on emergency room visits by cyclists who were or weren't wearing helmets when involved in an accident.

The Washington (DC) Area Bicyclists Association (WABA) petitioned the government to quit using that number as it is likely inaccurate even though it is often presented as "fact."

You might ask, "Why would a bicycle advocacy organization discourage helmet use?" And that's a good question. And they have two good answers:
1) If people think helmets stop all head injuries, they won't demand better helmets, and
2) Legislators may feel it makes sense to require everybody to wear one.

(The WABA was instrumental in getting a state helmet law passed for riders 16 and under, but they feel a law requiring all riders to wear a helmet on all rides would discourage bicycling. I can agree with that.)

Read more HERE.

Personally... I always wear a helmet. I'm not too concerned whether it makes me 85% safer, or "only" 50% safer. Even when I'm working on my bike and take it for a test ride in front of the house, I feel weirdly vulnerable if the bucket isn't attached. And it has paid off - my adult son always wears a helmet when he bicycles (or motorcycles), and granddaughter Mackie gives me a scoldin' if she sees me riding without one. In my 27+ years of transportation cycling, I've only been really, really, REALLY glad I had that helmet on two times! In either of those cases, I'm pretty confident my bike-riding would've been cut suddenly short, if not for the helmet. And when your head is flying toward that hard pavement, it's too late - there's no "do-over."


Clancy Anderson said...

I am a mixed bag on helmets. I wear them usually while commuting. On my Owyhee tour I only wore it on the down hills. I am in the market for a new helmet. I would like something not so racer and more urban but with ventilation.

Pics of the tour from Jordan Valley to Grandview. https://plus.google.com/photos/102644855797960209301/albums/5885346386492706705?banner=pwa

Video http://vimeo.com/67619401

Marcus said...

It seems we are in the same boat. I wear one always, but I feel that a mandatory law will be one more dis-incentive to riding a bicycle and make it seem more dangerous than it is (more deaths per year in bathtubs, walking and getting out of bed than cycling). Plus, I fit hundreds of helmets a year on children and adults. They are never wearing them correctly. What is the point of making it a mandatory law if people don't know how to wear one, or wear the helmets past their prime.

Bikeboy said...

I must respond to both of you! (And thanks for your comments.)

Clancy - your back-road adventure looks pretty awesome! How long (miles and time) between Point A and Point B? And... the obvious question... GOATHEADS?

Marcus, I'm probably guilty of using my bucket after the expiration date. I generally figure if I haven't conked it in a meaningful way, I'll keep wearing it until it gets disgusting. I'd say I normally get 5 years or more out of a helmet. And you are right about fitment! The ones that make me shake my head in dismay are the folks in the winter time who have a big stocking cap on, or something similar... and the helmet is perched high above, like its only function is to keep the hat from flying off. Unless they had a top-of-head "battering ram" impact, the helmet would do no good whatsoever.

Clancy Anderson said...

No Goatheads, just ticks.

Inspect your helmet. My helmet is cracked and i have never crashed it. Must be from dropping on the floor or swinging around on my handlebars.

Clancy Anderson said...

Just over 100 miles in 3 days. Day 2 was tough because of the hills and heat. Day 3 had 10 miles of brutal headwind. We had a chase vehicle for water and coolers.

Marcus said...

I recommend trying to replace a "bicycle specific" (EPS foam) helmet every 3 years if it has NOT been in a wreck. UV light breaks them down and from carrying them around they develop micro-fractures. Some companies use different foam (their own special ingredients, probably EPS also) that will last longer and take more hits (Bern, POC).