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  1. #1
    Senior Member Ekdog's Avatar
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    Richard C. Senel, M.D. Why Motorcycle and Bicycle Helmets Should Be Mandatory

    Stop a minute and look at the box that your latest computer or television came in. It's packed securely and safely in expanded foam similar to what helmets are made out of. Sony or Apple wouldn't think of shipping their product without this security, but we send our children out to play with less protection than a $100 DVD player. We must not be thinking clearly. The once nerdy white foam shell helmets now come in colorful and stylish designs that any child or adult would be proud to wear. You can protect your child for the $30 that you might spend on a pizza dinner.

    An interesting article by Richard C. Senelick, M.D.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richar..._b_786402.html

  2. #2
    Senior Member Kurt Erlenbach's Avatar
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    Here is the lede (or what should be):

    "The period of time before and after 1977 gives a clear picture of what happens when you require people to wear a helmet. Deaths and serious brain injuries were significantly reduced by the use of helmets. A 1992 study in the Journal of Trauma compared helmeted and unhelmeted motorcycle accident victims. The chance of a severe brain injury was 66 percent in those without a helmet compared to 38 percent for those smart enough to wear a helmet. The cost of medical care for the unhelmeted was more than four times greater than those with a helmet and 44 percent of the medical care was paid out of public funds." (emphasis added)



    In my libertarian days, I used to think that helmet laws were a good example of government overreach. Now that so much medical care is government-paid, it is clear that helmet laws save tax money. Call it nanny state if you want, but it's needed.

  3. #3
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Once again Kerlenbach is spot-on. The unasked question, however, is whether pedestrians and motorists should be required to wear helmets, for the same reason. I recall a ca. 1960 design of driving helmets which looked like regular street hats and which were being proposed for John Q. Motorist. Improved restraints and airbags may have weakened the argument somewhat, but helmets still might protect car occupants in side collisions.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Speedo's Avatar
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    Dr. Senel seems to be basing his bicycle helmet recommendation on:

    "We know that bicycle helmets reduce serious traumatic brain injuries by 95 percent, ..." (quoted from the referenced article)

    Of course! Who wouldn't, if it were true? But those big number reduction claims have long been discredited. Where helmets have been made mandatory, reductions in head injuries have no where near kept up with the increases in helmet use. See for example...

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science...d09de18c5e3a3a

    If bicycle helmet effectiveness is no where near the 95% claimed, what's the justification for mandatory use?

    Speedo
    Last edited by Speedo; 11-27-10 at 05:11 PM. Reason: clarification

  5. #5
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ekdog View Post
    Stop a minute and look at the box that your latest computer or television came in. It's packed securely and safely in expanded foam similar to what helmets are made out of. Sony or Apple wouldn't think of shipping their product without this security, but we send our children out to play with less protection than a $100 DVD player. We must not be thinking clearly. The once nerdy white foam shell helmets now come in colorful and stylish designs that any child or adult would be proud to wear. You can protect your child for the $30 that you might spend on a pizza dinner.

    An interesting article by Richard C. Senelick, M.D.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richar..._b_786402.html
    Well, I counter this article (and analogy) with another

    This note was written as a web page. If you're reading it on a web page, you're reading it on a computer. I'd like you to stop for a moment and think about that computer. When it arrived from its maker - possibly when you bought it - it was packed in a strong cardboard box. Inside the strong cardboard box was almost certainly some polystyrene foam packaging material. Probably at least 40mm of it, surrounding and protecting your computer from the inevitable bumps it would incur in transit - bumps like being dropped from someone's hands onto the warehouse floor, or thumped up against another, similarly packaged computer.

    By and large, for these sort of bumps, the packaging works, and your computer probably arrived home safe and sound.

    Now think about your bicycle helmet. Like the packaging your computer came in, it is worn to protect a very valuable object - your brain. Like the packaging your computer came in, it is made of polystyrene foam - and typically it's a good bit less than 40mm thick.

    I would like you to stop again, and think about the box your computer came in. I'd like you, as a thought experiment, to imagine taking your computer, putting it back it in its original box, and placing the box in the middle of the street. Now I want you to imagine getting into a car and driving into the box at just thirty miles an hour. You've imagined that? Good. Now do you think you would be able to use the computer afterwards?

    Polystyrene foam is just polystyrene foam. Polystyrene foam is a light, weak, compressible solid which rapidly becomes brittle with age and is easily damaged by solvents. It doesn't become magically stronger just because it's formed into a cycle helmet. The same foam that didn't protect the computer in the thought experiment is equally not going to protect your head in similar circumstances.
    Last edited by closetbiker; 11-27-10 at 06:56 PM.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedo View Post
    Dr. Senel seems to be basing his bicycle helmet recommendation on:

    "We know that bicycle helmets reduce serious traumatic brain injuries by 95 percent, ..."
    Which we all know is absolute bunk, yet there are those who swear on stacks of bibles that it's true, despite evidence to the contrary.
    "My two favourite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything" -Peter Golkin
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    Another Kool-Aid drinker who pulls out the same discredited numbers and revisionist history.

    From the motorcycle side, I'll bet they try hard to ignore the study that said full-face helmets (like the pic in the article) can act as a 'guillotine' of sorts, transferring facial impact directly to the spine and severing the spinal cord at the base of the skull, causing immediate death. Read that one in '93. And when he stated that it's a 'fact' that most motorcycle injuries are at the public's expense, I knew we were dealing with a mouthpiece for the pro-helmeters out there.

    Anybody else ready for the lies to stop?

  8. #8
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerlenbach View Post
    In my libertarian days, I used to think that helmet laws were a good example of government overreach. Now that so much medical care is government-paid, it is clear that helmet laws save tax money. Call it nanny state if you want, but it's needed.
    Helmet laws like those in effect in Australia levy a substantial cost on healthcare systems because savings from fewer head injuries pale in comparison to the costs incurred by decreases in cycling, a mathematical model concludes.
    "My two favourite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything" -Peter Golkin
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  9. #9
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    So we want to save health care cost.

    What are the health cost for a motorcyclist that dies on the road from not wearing a helmet - $0.
    What are the health cost for a motorcyclist that lives with life long disabilities by wearing a helmet - often over $1,000,000.

    For the sake of saving health care cost, we should encourage motorcyclist to ride without helmets.
    Land of the Free, Because of the Brave.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerlenbach View Post



    In my libertarian days, I used to think that helmet laws were a good example of government overreach. Now that so much medical care is government-paid, it is clear that helmet laws save tax money.....
    No it is not clear at all. Evidence suggests that bicycle helmet laws cost society more money than they save. Cycling is *healthy* and good for society whether helmets are used or not.

    Even if bicycle helmets did save tax money (evidence suggests they don't) a mandatory helmet law could never save more than a tiny fraction as much as would a law against being overweight or eating junk, for instance. If saving tax money really is your goal, then you should focus on policy that could actually have a measurable impact on public health costs.

    So, you're all for government determining what we can and can't eat, right? Why or why not.

  11. #11
    Senior Member FlatSix911's Avatar
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    The best reason for a helmet I have ever found ...



    You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
    You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
    You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
    You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down.
    You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.

  12. #12
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    Hold on I'm going to post a picture of an obscenely obese person on a government sponsored scooter about to have a government sponsored stroke.

    oh here ya go

    Last edited by RobertHurst; 11-28-10 at 01:38 AM.

  13. #13
    Senior Member 009jim's Avatar
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    Yes, it's clearly beneficial for cyclists and motorcyclists to wear helmets; but the ultimate question is why not motorists too? I'll tell you why - because if motorists had to wear helmets, it would piss-off a lot of women and a lot of politicians and therein lies a prime example of the shear bigotry of so many aspects of our society. Oh, we simply can't have a rule that would piss-off all those women. The laws should have been bundled together:- do we want helmets for everyone or no-one? Not some minority that can be easily oppressed. A similarly stupid law would be to legislate for black people to wear helmets; or mexicans, or people in wheelchairs!

  14. #14
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    Research by Dr. Mayer Hilman (UK) into cyclist head injury fatalities (can't find the source, unfortuantely) showed that about 92% of those who died from brain injury would have died anyway from other, less immediately threatening injuries. He estimated that only about 6 UK riders would have their lives saved p.a.

    If you are hit by a motor vehicle, especially coming from the opposite direction, with a collision speed in excess of 30mph, the standard helmet will protect you somewhat, from about 12/14mph of the impact. However, you may:
    1. flip up over the hood, hit the windscreen with your head and break your neck (death/paralysis)
    2. flip right over the car (possibly ditto) and be run over by following vehicle
    3. splat into the windscreen of a 40 ton truck (a 30mph to stop or even 30 mph one way to 30 mph in the opposite direction) in which case the force of the impact may sever a major blood vessel (aorta, anyone), push your ribcage thro' your lungs/heart/blood vessels/cause massive internal haemorrhaging, etc)
    4. go over the hood of the car/pickup and land rolling on the other side with only relatively minor injuries
    5. the aerodynamic rear of a fancier helmet may catch the ground/vehicle and spin your head round causing spinal/brain shaking injuries
    6. land on your face pushing your nose up into your frontal cortex
    7. etc., etc.

    I always wear a helmet to save me from minor damage but prefer to avoid putting the helmet to the test by avoiding being hit.

    The carefully researched British Medical Assoication study, Cyclng & Health, showed that the benefits of cycling as little as 4 miles daily were about 20 times more likely to extend your life span by keeping you healthy than you were to die in a traffic collision.

    By the way, jumping off the ridgeline of a 2 storey house is the equivalent of a 30 to zero crash. Fancy relying on a helmet to keep you alive if you go off head first?

  15. #15
    Senior Member Kurt Erlenbach's Avatar
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    For the sake of this discussion, I don't care about what people eat, what pedestrians, car drivers or passengers wear, what you wear when you jump off the house, or any such things. Most bike crashes are simple affairs: clip-out failure, scraping a curb and falling, hitting a pothole, or maybe a bump from a car. In each you will fall with varying degrees of force from the bike, and there is a good chance of hitting your head. I would much prefer hitting my head with a bike helmet on, than not. I would prefer not having the accident in the first place, but as Lance said, if you're afraid of falling off the bike, don't get on it. For the more serious and less likely accident - getting hit by a car at speed, etc. - a helmet won't help, nor will anything else other than avoiding the crash.

    There is a good chance, when riding a few thousand miles a year on the road, that at some point I will have a significant crash that will bounce my head off the ground. Maybe the helmet will save me from a knot, maybe from a fracture, maybe from a subdural hematoma, or maybe from nothing at all. I am not convinced that drivers behave less safely around me because I have a helmet, and I do not believe that I take more risks because I have a helmet. It's also possible that a helmet could cause one kind of injury while preventing a different one (Seatbelts help preserve your face, chest and head at the expense of your neck and back - I'll take whiplash over smashing into the windshield any day.) Those things are possible, but unlikely. So as I said in a previous post, the cost of wearing it is minimal, while the benefits are significant.

  16. #16
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    no one is saying that there should be a ban on helmets and wearing one should be illegal. This article is saying that there should be a law for people to wear bicycle helmets and to not wear one should be illegal. That's quite a difference, so this proposal has to be justified.

    The justification for this lies in the belief that bicycle helmets reduce all serious TBI by 95%, which know is not true. We also know that the toll of injuries of people on bikes is no greater than those same injuries to others who are not riding bikes, so there is no justification of need for a law.

    Further, helmet laws have been around for quite some time and we know what happens when they get passed. The publics health suffers while head injuries to cyclists continue. The blind eye to these facts by the author is not shared by others, so more often than not, mandatory helmet laws are defeated and choice is retained.
    Last edited by closetbiker; 11-28-10 at 09:48 AM.
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  17. #17
    Senior Member Kurt Erlenbach's Avatar
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    I favor motorcycle helmet laws and children's bike helmet laws. Adult bike helmet laws probably would do more harm (discouraging adult causal riders, encouraging discriminatory enforcement) than good (reducing/eliminating an occasional head injury).

  18. #18
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    There should be a law that mandates every man should wear a cup.

  19. #19
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    I think we need better enforcement of laws that prevent deaths and serious injuries to cyclists.

    Motorists get away with causing serious injury and death, and then place the blame for these deaths on cyclists because the "should have been wearing a helmet"
    "My two favourite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything" -Peter Golkin
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  20. #20
    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    It seems to me that unless a law is going to be enforced there is no point writing it at all.

    In the UK the police appear unable or unwilling to enforce the prohibition on using handheld mobile phones while driving. Just about every day I'm out (on foot or by bike) I see people using their phone while driving. If the police cannot enforce this what hope do they have of enforcing legislation requiring cyclists to wear helmets?

  21. #21
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by contango View Post
    It seems to me that unless a law is going to be enforced there is no point writing it at all.
    At least with what I casually observe, it seems to have an effect on tort cases.

  22. #22
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerlenbach View Post
    ... Most bike crashes are simple affairs: clip-out failure, scraping a curb and falling, hitting a pothole, or maybe a bump from a car. In each you will fall with varying degrees of force from the bike, and there is a good chance of hitting your head. I would much prefer hitting my head with a bike helmet on, than not. ...
    For these type of accidents, you would be much better off not hitting your head in the first place rather than relying on a helmet. May I suggest going back to grade school and learning to tuck your chin into your chest when you go to ground. It works extremely well.
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  23. #23
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by contango View Post
    It seems to me that unless a law is going to be enforced there is no point writing it at all.

    In the UK the police appear unable or unwilling to enforce the prohibition on using handheld mobile phones while driving. Just about every day I'm out (on foot or by bike) I see people using their phone while driving. If the police cannot enforce this what hope do they have of enforcing legislation requiring cyclists to wear helmets?
    Easy, London has had several crackdowns of scofflaw cyclist. Cyclist are easy political targets.
    Land of the Free, Because of the Brave.

  24. #24
    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CB HI View Post
    Easy, London has had several crackdowns of scofflaw cyclist. Cyclist are easy political targets.
    I've never observed such a crackdown. I've had to take evasive action to avoid the usual antisocial cyclists who plough through red lights at pedestrian crossings even when pedestrians are crossing, seen a number of cyclists travelling at speed on pavements (sidewalks) etc.

    The problem with crackdowns on cyclists is that the cyclist who is generally responsible but once in a while takes a shortcut (e.g. using the pavement for a short distance when no pedestrians are using it) is more likely to cooperate with the police, while the antisocial cyclist who doesn't care about rules at all and considers the world to be their personal racetrack will simply ignore the police and cycle away. In the absence of any form of registration of bicycles there is little the police can do, unless they are a position to give chase.

  25. #25
    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
    At least with what I casually observe, it seems to have an effect on tort cases.
    Perhaps, but when laws are implemented with at least the stated aim of improving safety I'd rather see the improvement in safety than an increase in prosecutions. It's all very well having something extra to hit an errant driver with after they cause an accident, but the fact the accident happened in the first place shows the law failed in its stated aim.

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