Sep 15, 2011

Musing about Bike Helmets

I read an article in which the young author wrote how her father was saved from far worse injury, when he was on his bike and hit by a car, because he was wearing a helmet.

The next day, I saw a very little kid riding his bike in front of his house as he waited for his school bus.  He was wearing a helmet.

I may be wrong on this; I haven't arrived at my final conclusion, but I think the helmet "thing" has gotten out of hand.  I'm not the first to write about numerous restrictions and safety measures that are forced upon us today when we did just fine without them years ago.  One minute, you might say.  What about head injuries? How can I recklessly say we don't need helmets?

Well, I think that we can differentiate between someone riding a bike in traffic and a kid riding his bike on the sidewalk or on a bike path with no cars around.  I haven't studied the risks, but it makes sense to me that when we were kids growing up and riding our bikes up and down the sidewalk without wearing a helmet, that was a very low risk activity.  As opposed to being a courier riding a bike in Manhattan!

Maybe what's needed to settle this to my satisfaction is a study done to show just how many people are seriously injured because they were not wearing a helmet when they rode a bike in an area that is away from cars.  I don't remember hearing of any bike related head injury accidents in my growing up years.  I'd like the number of bike-head injuries compared to how many people get serious injuries when they are in car accidents.  Maybe we should wear helmets when we enter a car.  Is it really less risky than riding a bike on the sidewalk? My guess would be that being in a car is more of a risk for serious head injury.  But maybe I'm wrong on that.

For that matter, people trip and fall and injure themselves walking down the street.  Should we wear helmets when we go outdoors? I'd like to see a risk factor comparison with various activities.

Taking this from another angle, do we think that we can take the proper safety measures that will ensure that we will be healthy and that G-d can't or won't intervene? I tend to think that if Hashem has His reasons for afflicting someone with a head injury, it will happen regardless as to whether he wears a helmet when he bikes or not. 

So I remain undecided.  I think that yes, we need to take precautions in life and that's a mitzva, but I don't know which are considered normal precautions and which are annoyances that are not justified by the low risk of injury.  And to preempt anyone who thinks - just one person seriously injured is reason enough for all to wear a helmet - with that reasoning we should all wear helmets and elbow and knee pads all the time and nobody (yet) is saying we should.

Now don't get me started on the laws about car seats for kids!

1 comment:

  1. A kid on a sidewalk on a small training bike that cannot possibly go fast is probably safe without a helmet. People riding in traffic on large fast bikes are probably safer with a helmet.
    I guess that it is all a matter of what risks a person wants to take. If Hashem decides that someones time is up, they might just die in their sleep. Meanwhile, would anyone want to say or feel that an injury or death could have been easily prevented? Hashem also commanded certain safety rules such as a fence on a roof so there must be an element of Kedusha in observing safety rules.