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In the end, Wearing a Helmet Just Seems to Make Sense

Monday, December 21st, 2009 at 02:49 PM

I will always remember a quote I read a few years ago: “There are three types of lies: Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics.” If you Goggle this quote, you’ll find that details on who first made the statement are foggy, regardless it’s been repeated many times since. I once tried to use it against my statics teacher in university, a middle aged woman with strawberry blond hair, a bubbly personality and a sharp wit, who was quick to rebuke with the fact that it depends on who is wielding the statistics when they are presented. “Good point” I muttered under my breath as she stared at me with vicious contempt from behind her thin, black rimmed glasses. The memory of that moment had slipped from my thoughts until just recently.

A couple of weeks ago I put up a post about wearing helmets. To me, wearing a helmet had always just made sense. I work in the bicycle industry, have for the past 15 years and never really questioned wearing a helmet I just did. I admit I’m not perfect; I’ve gone on a ride or two to the store or around the block where I haven’t  dawned my brain bucket for one reason or another, but the majority of the time I am strapped in.

Because of my natural tendency to wear a helmet I had never realized what a hot topic the helmet debate was until this post. The article elicited a long response that argued that helmets are not as effective at saving your life as you might think, worse they have strangled a couple of toddlers. I was intrigued by the insidious allegations that helmets harmed toddlers so I read the whole reply, checking out the links and going over the arguments against helmets.

My curiosity opened a door and as I explored both sides of the argument information came rushing in. I consumed article after article with ravenous interest. I was surprised to learn just how many people where vehemently against wearing a helmet while using pedal propelled devices.

The side against cranial protection systems did present intersting arguments; except for the one that helmet laws would increase childhood obesity. – This reminded me of a caution that the same statistics teacher had pointed out: “Correlation does not infer causation.” I figured unless the children were eating their helmets instead of wearing them, and honestly how many calories could a helmet have, the law was probably not causing a surge in adolescent weight gain. – I digress. Interesting as the arguments against a helmet may be, they still fall short of offering what most would deem as compelling evidence against helmets.

Yes, helmet laws seem to be ineffective and costly, and nobody likes being forced to do something they don’t want to – wearing a helmet for example. In Vancouver, BC, where wearing a helmet is mandatory, the law seems to have convinced many cyclists to at least put a helmet on their handlebars which is close to their head though I assume ineffective in any type of a crash. And many cyclists that do wear helmets wear them improperly which again reduces their effectiveness. And I will concede that in the battle of cyclist against a motorized vehicle, the cyclist will always be at a disadvantage.

But, and this is a big BUT, there is enough evidence pointing out that helmets do provide more protection than not wearing one, even the arguments against helmets agree. My take on the subject after learning a bit about both sides is this:  I like my head and having spent a lot of money educating my brain I have grown very fond of the whole package –brain, skull and all- so whatever protection I can provide my investment I am happy to do so. Maybe helmets are not as effective as they could be but they do offer more protection than just your skull and I have witnessed this first hand.  Having spent the last fifteen years working in the cycling industry I have seen countless examples where a helmet thankfully did its job and a cyclist walked away from what could have been a catastrophic crash with little more than a broken helmet and a surprised if not dazed look on their face.

Not everyone likes helmets, and that’s fine, but to me wearing one just makes good common sense so I will keep one strapped to my melon when I am on a bicycle. In my opinion if helmets provide any protection it’s still better than none. Besides, I don’t know too many people who have argued that they are alive because they did not wear their helmet, but I have heard more than a few exclaim that they are here today because they had a lid on during a crash, and that seems like reason enough for me.

On that note I wish you all safe and happy holidays.

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