P Clark, Byron Bay
In the November 6 edition of The Byron Echo an article refers to the close shave that a fellow had while cycling and the generous offer of a local cycling emporium of discounts for helmets. While I am pleased that the injuries were not severe and find the offer from the retailer commendable, the issue of added safety from wearing cycle helmets is anything but clear-cut as a brief Google search will show you.
Several years ago, I was called to the scene of a cycling accident where one gentleman wore a helmet and the other did not. The helmet wearer died from diffuse axonal injury found to be caused by the severe rotation effect caused by the helmet gripping the road. The one without a helmet had a crack on the skull, some bleeding and recovered fully.
Basically, the brain is a fairly squidgy device that we carry around in a box called the skull. As with all impacts, concussion and bleeding, the brain expands and if there is nowhere for the extra pressure to be vented it can, sadly, result in death.
There is some research that shows there are fewer injuries as a result of compulsory bike helmet laws in Australia and equally convincing evidence that contradicts all of it. A law that required people in cars to wear a helmet would be seven times more effective, pedestrians would benefit equally to cyclists, and skateboarders, surfers…
Many countries have refused to follow the Australian compulsion root and use here as a good example of why you shouldn’t. It reduces the number of people cycling, making car drivers less cycle-aware. It can also reduce a cyclist’s awareness by impairing vision and hearing and creates a false sense of invulnerability, increasing the risk of severe and sometimes fatal concussion.
Most cycle helmets are designed for just one impact and then should be discarded.
Most collisions with cars result in two head impacts, one against the car and one for the road.
I would personally elect to wear a helmet if engaged in high-speed head-down, arse-up road racing, but for a normal journey along the road would not.
If lawmakers want to take on responsibility for our personal safety in this way, any injuries we might receive in life where they haven’t stipulated the required safety gear, as in when in a car or as a pedestrian, then by implication make the state liable for any injuries. The other major concern for enforcement legislation is it reduces an individual’s ability to make sensible decisions and personal assessments of the risks involved in an activity and that is far more dangerous.