Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Publish Day - protect your head

The London Free Press has published my latest column, Too cool to wear a helmet? Too bad in today's edition. In it, I talk about people who refuse to cover their heads while cycling, and the risk we all assume because of their choice. In many ways, a helmet is very much like a seat belt in that it is a relatively simple means of protection that makes a huge diffference if the individual is ever involved in an accident.

It's been nagging at me for a while, so I wrote about it. Where do you stand on this issue?

Your turn:
  • Do you wear a bicycle helmet when you ride? Why/why not?
  • Do your kids wear them? Why/why not?
  • Should people who refuse to ride with them be subject to higher insurance premiums to offset the additional risk? Would such differential treatment be fair?
Update - June 2

One of the groups that I quoted in this piece, the Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals, has posted a reference to the column on its web site. Here's the link. Here's what they said:

ON - Too cool to wear a helmet? - Too bad! New
Writing in the London Free Press, Carmi Levy indicates: "Ontario law states that every cyclist under the age of 18 must wear an approved helmet. Common sense would dictate anyone over that age would want to be similarly protected. Although every head injury is a terrible tragedy that changes individuals and families forever, let's talk dollars and cents for a bit. The Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals (CARSP) estimates first-year costs for a brain-injured patient can reach $300,000. Post-hospital rehab will run another $125,000 annually, with the average lifetime cost for a head-injured patient averaging between $4 million and $9 million. And all because some people think they're too cool to wear a helmet."

For more on cycling safety and helmet use, see our Slick Clicks for June


janie q said...

i haven't riden a bike for years so i can't answer the first one. i have three kids, they all wear helmets, no, helmet, no bike, no roller blades. when i was first learning how to drive a car, that's when wearing a seat belt became mandatory, and it took me a little bit to get use to it. my kids have never been in a car without one, in fact, if i start to go in reverse and they are still putting it on, they get upset and i have to wait until they are completely buckled in (they're older now and can do it themselves). i took the same approach with the helmet issue, it's how they were raised. i don't know how you enforce something like that, but i think in the event of injury, maybe then you shouldn't be entitled to coverage, not really sure on that insurance issue here.

Terry said...

I'd make my kids wear them (if I had kids). I don't know how you would enforce it. I think educating kids and making it a commonplace thing would be the best way.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

If seat belts can be required, helmets should be also. And if they won't wear a helmet, their insurance rates should be jacked up to the sky. Nothing makes more sense.

Rebecca said...

I also haven't ridden a bike in years, but I would not ride on a street without one. I see bikers cycling down busy streets without head protection and I am amazed. Audrey is just learning to ride her bike and she will never know what it is like to get on her bike without a helmet. As far as she is concerned the two are eternally linked.

And I don't know about insurance premiums, but I certainly think it should be a law that carries heavy fines and eventual impounding of bike when broken.

Thumper said...

I have mixed feeling about bike helmets. I required one for my kid (consequently, he stopped riding his bike) but I hate them. There's that little voice in the back of my head that reminds me I grew up without one, I fell, I hit my head... It's amazing anyone of my generation actually survived when you consider all the safety things we didn't have.

Then there's that other voice that says "well what if you fell and hit your head HARD?" The helmet would make all the difference... Still, I hate them and I hate how overheated they make me feel.

I don't think insurance rates should be tied to helmet use, and I'm not sure laws should be inacted for anyone over age 18 requiring their use. At some point we have to stop legislating the crap out of things and let common sense prevail.

Christine said...

I grew up before bike helmets - I never wore one as a kid. As an adult I always wear one - not only to protect my head, but to set an example for my kids.

There are lots of kids out riding without them - I see them every day. It is because of them that I work so hard even at this young age to teach my kids that no helmet equals no riding. I know my kids will be tempted later to not wear them.

sxKitten said...

My kids always wear helmets if they're cycling or skating - we started when they were on trikes, and it wouldn't occur to them to argue about it. And when I rode a bike for the first time in 10 years, I wore a helmet. I also always wear my seatbelt.

I think helmet laws for kids are an absolute necessity - we have to protect them from as much as possible while they're too young to understand the ramifications of what they do. I think the issue of helmet laws for adults is a little fuzzier, mostly because I'm wary of a society that legislates every aspect of its citizens' lives. Yes, people who ride bikes without helmets are idiots. But so are people who dive into water of unknown depth, or run across busy roads at night, or cut down trees near power lines ...

Once they're legally adults, I don't know how far we should go to protect idiots from themselves. It's a slippery slope.

Karen said...

I never wear a helmet although I know I should - my kids always wear their helmets.

I will be doing a serious amount cycling in france this summer so maybe it's about time I stopped being stupid and got myself one.

Sleeping Mommy said...

I haven't ridden a bike in a VERY long time, so can't really answer it from my stand point but when my children ride they WILL wear a helmet to protect them.

thequeen said...

The kids were helmets if they are riding along the street, but not in the grass in the yard or field. I haven't ridden a bike in years so I don't wear a helmet;)

Lynda said...

Well, like some of the others, I grew up before they even had bicycle helmets. I still ride a bike today, however, I have a "real" bike - you know, the kind where you step on the brakes and sit upright, so I don't wear one - of course, as you can imagine, I'm not going very fast. I don't have kids, so that was never an issue for me, however, I do think the little one should definitely wear a helmet.

I worry more about the motorcycle helmets than bicycle helmets... but that's another post.

Libby said...

i also haven't ridden a bike in years, and, since my daughter is now 21, but got her driver's license at 16, she's never even looked at a bike since then! But she has never, ever ridden in a car without a seatbelt, since she's had 8 friends die in car accidents after drinking & without seatbelts!

Anarchy Zen said...

You mean bycycle? If I'm on a busy roads then yes, it's something I'm likely to choose. On a path? Just to run to the store? In a light traffic neighborhood. No way! And plz don't expect it.

There is an assumption being made that I expect some sort of compensation if i make a mistake and get hit. Just cause someone wants to drive 50mph and expect me not get hurt if then run into me driving along legally is ridiculous.

It's my life. You don't own me. I'm only a part of this society because I have no choice. I own nothing to you.

If you want to just push my body to the side and dump it down a sewer, if I get hit and die without a helmet then state your intentions and just do it. I'll adjust and wear one if I think that changes things, but plz get your ideals off my body!!!

And that goes for seatbelts to. Where is the opt out option?

Of course it's smart if you value life and limb. But it's my life and limb, not societies or anybody elses.

I ride a motorcycle without a helmet often. I'm self responsibel and self reliable and independent AND have a very perceptive senses, good driving habits and after driving sixteen years I've never ever had a close call and I'm even a bit aggressive.

I don't understand why we all want to try to own and control each other.

Thanks. I do appreciate your view, but I think these kinds of laws are the first step in a big brother, very contolling and sad society.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I do wear a helmet. I don't have kids - but I made my dad start wearing one. In London (England) hospital emergency wards, cyclists are known as 'organ donors' because of the number of times they come in dead from head injuries with the rest of them in very good condition from all that cycling!

Dean said...

How are you going to increase the insurance rates of people who don't wear helmets?

It's a serious question. How are you going to identify those people? Would you, perhaps, increase someone's insurance rates if they were convicted of riding without a helmet?

sharbean said...

Do you wear a bicycle helmet when you ride? Why/why not? Yes. Because there are so many idiot drivers out there who don't watch for cyclists. If the hubby found out I wasn't wearing a helmet while cycling (he's an EMT) I'd be forced to look at photos of people with head injuries for hours.

Do your kids wear them? Why/why not? Makenna's too small yet but when she is old enough: no helmet, no bike. Her father is an ex-mountain bike racer and he makes helmets look cool so I don't think we'll have problems getting her to wear one.

Higher insurance premiums? I'm not sure about higher insurance premiums because I don't trust insurance companies to apply this honestly but I do think there should be a law that says helmets are mandatory with hefty fines for not wearing one.

Sharlene -

Jennie said...

Hi Carmi, I used to ride my oldest on the back of my mountain bike every morning for 10 miles and we both wore helmets. (Until a guy in a store recognized us and told me it was too cold for him in November, and I should stop!) If I'm just riding around town, I don't. In our state, kids have to wear them until 14 (I think) but my extremely style-conscious 13 year old is a struggle. My 8yo wears his. (It's the 13 yo who really needs one.) I don't think "insurance premiums" when I think about helmet and safety... But if I must, I'd say there should not be higher premiums, even if this could offset the additional risk! ;)

Raehan said...

Hi. I don't ride a bike these days, but I would wear a helmet, because my sister was in a bad bike accident once.

My oldest daughter wears a helmet. My toddler barely rides a trike, but I know even on the tricycle we should put a helmet on.

Thanks for reminding me.

Jenny said...

Helmets for everyone here, even a jaunt around the block.

Jennie said...

Yipes! That is a scary amount of money. But I wonder about that last line: all because some people thought they were too cool to wear a helmet. I don't know if it's that they think they're too cool...unfortunately I think it's because they're afraid they're not cool enough. At least that's what I see when I see my son choose the risk.
My cousin has brain damage from wearing a skull cap which broke during a motorcycle accident. He was always one to be concerned whether he appeared cool enough, now he doesn't know me and is a lawn mower mechanic instead of an airplane mechanic...and I'm sure it cost society lots of money for his rehab, but I never thought of it that way!
You've got me thinking...I will be bugging my Seth regularly - and he just got a new helmet. (A cool one) :)