(Previously published in Forsyth Family Magazine)
Here’s a bike/helmet story. There was this guy who enjoyed riding his bike, and tried his best to fit in with car drivers without being annoying. He would stick to the county roads away from traffic and never rode during busy early morning or late afternoon rush hours. He always rode alone to avoid blocking the roads - those packs aggravated him when he was driving,too, so why would he do that? He always got in line at stoplights, never riding to the front to have to be passed again. Still, he had the odd curse yelled at him for just being there, dodged a few cigarette butts and drink bottles, and unwillingly played a few games of “chicken,” but most drivers were polite since he made sure to be polite himself.
One Saturday on Skylark Road, an “interaction” with a vehicle left him lying in the road unconscious. Passing drivers called 911 and he woke up on the wrong end of the trauma team at the local hospital where he spent the next 3 pretty awful days. Thankfully he has no memory of the accident, or most of the ride before.
His wife was driving the kids to see friends in Tennessee when she got the dreaded call: “Your husband has been in an accident and is at the Emergency Department…” which ended that trip.
Tally of injuries: a severe concussion,4 broken vertebrae in his neck and 2 in his upper back, along with broken ribs. Thankfully, he had no spinal cord damage and spent the next 2 months at home recovering before finally being able to at least get back to work. He has pain every day still, but has learned to ignore it, for the most part.
He does not ride anymore. He probably physically could, but just can’t.
About the helmet he was wearing: There is a big flat spot on the right front which was the first thing that hit the vehicle. However, if you look closely, you will see that the impact actually broke the helmet all the way through. He was on a flat road, probably cruising at about 20mph at the time and crashed head first into a large hard object.
If not for this helmet, he would be dead.
Those fractures in the helmet would have been fractures in his skull and the resulting brain injury would have caused massive bleeding, brain damage and swelling which would likely been fatal. He may have survived, but with significant disabilities. The helmet saved his life, in more than one way, then.
You don’t have to be moving fast to crash and hit your head. A bicycle is inherently unstable, the slower you go, the more unstable it is. You can fall over in your driveway and suffer a traumatic brain injury. So here is the point, finally:
Parents: PUT HELMETS ON YOUR KIDS. Put them on early so they get used to wearing them, and they will eventually do it without even thinking. The best thing is they will probably avoid riding if they DON’T have a helmet. You know the way it works: The ONE time you don’t….
And Parents: PUT HELMETS ON YOURSELVES. How many times do you see a parent riding with their helmeted kids, but no helmet themselves? Your kids need you, all of you.
This was a true story. That (former) rider was me. Thanks for reading, and be careful out there.