The Helmet Debate – RCA View

August 25, 2012 | No comments | Technical Articles

Helmet Debate

The helmet debate reared its head again (pun intended) over the last week or so with an item on Close Up
We wouldn’t normally take much notice of sensationalising or over hyping media such as Close Up but it is an opportunity for the RCA to post a view.

Obviously first and foremost the RCA respects the law and we all happily wear our helmets at all times – no problem.
However helmets are a bit like seatbelts in cars. Some argue that they can be harmful or even ineffective while others swear they are essential to safety.

Personally I will always wear one because my doctor told me that as we get older we can’t take the same degree of knock to the head that a young person can sustain relatively easily. Thus a simple fall over at the lights can be more than just embarrassing – it can be fatal. So I like to err on the safe side and save myself some potential grief.

Wearing a helmet has never caused an injury that I am aware of, yet there are plenty of examples where not wearing a helmet has grossly aggravated injuries sustained– not just cycling but in many sports including snowboarding.

At the same time we are aware that many cyclists place undue faith in a lump of polystyrene on their head and wrongly assume they are completely safe from head injury as long as they have it on.

All of that said, the RCA can see how having to wear one at the beach or while cycling on a footpath or a cycleway may seem a bit unnecessary or even discourage some people from bothering with getting on a bike and exercising.
It’s a bit sad to think people might be so image insecure that they don’t want to be seen wearing a helmet but we can understand young people in particular thinking this way.
Similarly we can understand female (and some male) recreational cyclists wanting to avoid annoying bad hair days or even wanting to flaunt their locks sexily in the breeze..

As believers in individual freedoms where they are respectful and don’t impinge on other’s we support these peoples’ views as well.  If as adults they make a reasoned choice with a full understanding of the risks involved they should be allowed some freedom,  but – and here is the but – not on the roads in traffic as a sport cyclist or commuter.
The reason we need to wear helmets on the road we believe is for the exact same reason car drivers have to wear seatbelts – for our own safety and to reduce the severity of injury in the case of an accident.
We know an accident can happen right outside our front door so the length of the trip is irrelevant.

Another less compelling but possible reason to wear a helmet is as part of our responsibility to our wider communities. Notwithstanding the importance of minimising damage to ourselves, we should aim to cut down the cost of injury treatment in our society and to possibly reduce the trauma a motorist might have to endure if we were to fall off in front of them and be hit for example. We do owe it to our fellow road users to take some responsible steps to minimise harm to ourselves and potentially to others.


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