More than 50,000 children get serious head injuries in bicycle accidents each year; many are killed who could have survived. Wearing a ANSI or Snell approved bike helmet can protect them, saving a life or reducing the severity of injury. Many parents buy helmets for their kids, who are at higher risk because of their inexperience and well, childishness.
Benefits of Helmets
Serious bicyclists wear helmets. I’ve worn them since 1980, when the original Bell Biker was available. Today’s helmets are more stylish, no longer looking like half an oversized volleyball. They are required for all organized rides because of liability insurance and are just plain common sense.
Any bike enthusiast can tell the story of a friend who has crashed and cracked a helmet. Sadly, many can tell of a tragedy where an adult fell over and hit his head on the ground with fatal or brain-damaging consequences. The human brain is amazing, protected by the skull, but an unprotected head is not designed to fall from four feet onto pavement. That’s why ANSI helmets have a crush layer of styrofoam. Once the inner liner is cracked, the helmet must be replaced.
The marketplace weeded out the Skid-Lid helmet long ago, which had a hard shell that protected against abrasions, but open-cell foam that magnified accelerations to the head. The old-fashioned leather hair-nets are long gone from bike racing, replaced by aerodynamic helmets that give an extra bit of speed to a racer on a downhill.
A Double Benefit for Parents
All adults need bike helmets, but parents have the extra advantage of setting a good example for their kids. “Do as I say, not as I do” works for a while, but values are caught, not taught. Kids naturally look up to their parents, especially dads, so if their dad does something irresponsible, it will be OK for them, too, when they get older.
It’s hard enough to raise kids with all the negative influences from our pleasure-driven culture. Watching your dad wearing a bike helmet is similar to watching him buckle his seat belt in the car and making sure you have yours on too. Kids feel secure knowing they are protected and provided for by those who love them most.
Quietly Resist the Culture
Parents, especially dads, are mocked by movies and books. Ever read the Berenstain Bears children’s books? Wikipedia says Papa Bear is an oafish, bumbling carpenter, and wise Mama Bear is a housewife and perfectionist. Warmly written and popular, there are better choices that do not disparage parents while teaching good values.
The typical movie that appeals to teenagers has kids with all the wisdom and treats adults like idiots; this is understandable, since it’s natural to think your parents don’t know anything.
Why not get a head start on avoiding teenage rebellion by quietly setting a good example instead of training them to “do as I say, not as I do,” or worse yet, not providing basic safety equipment to go along with the bike?
Helmets to Seat Belts Analogy
One of my earliest childhood memories is from age 5: the bruises on my hips from the lap belt my dad had installed in the back seat of our 1965 Plymouth. We were getting undressed in a motel while our car and pop-up camper were being repaired after someone had made a U-turn in front of us in rural Nebraska. Dad had installed the belts bought with a good price negotiated by DuPont as an off-the-job safety program for their employees, when only lap belts for driver and passenger were required by the government.
I would have been a projectile inside the car and probably spent the night in the hospital instead of in the motel with my sisters, who were also uninjured.
As I grew older I was embarrassed that my dad made my friends buckle up in our cars, when most cars didn’t even have belts and few people wore them. Now I do the same thing, and parents can make the “fasten the seat belt” war easier by wearing a belt themselves. “The car doesn’t move until everyone has their belts on.” After a while it’s just second nature.
It can be the same with bikes too. Before you get on a bike (or motorcycle), put your helmet on. Then get on the bike and enjoy the ride.
A Safety Culture is also Good Business
Pre – OSHA, electricians at some large companies worked on 440-3 phase with the power on and left hand in pocket. They were shocked numerous times and would get thrown across the room, but as long as the current doesn’t go through a man’s heart he could survive. At some companies, basics like shutting off the power and lockout were unheard of because people were replaceable.
Not all companies thought that way, however. DuPont got its start making gunpowder on the banks of the Brandywine River and designed their plants so if there was an explosion, the wall nearest the river was blown out. GM has dramatically reduced its injury rate since the early 1990s when they started benchmarking companies like DuPont and Alcoa with good safety practices.
I’m proud to work at a company where safety suggestions are usually adopted without question (they put a window in an exterior door at my suggestion), and the causes of all incidents are analyzed so future ones can be prevented. The persistent attention to safety has paid off; GM’s safety performance has steadily improved and is consistently better than most of its auto industry competitors.
Companies that care about the welfare of their workers, on and off the job, are desirable places to work. Businesses that flout OSHA rules and pay fines often find themselves losing money because people choose to spend their money at good companies.
A bike helmet makes a thoughtful Father’s Day gift. They are inexpensive and useful for at least two purposes: lifesaving protection and setting a good example.
I’m glad my own father set a high standard by protecting those he loved as well as working hard to provide for us. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!