On Balance  

Saving Dad's head, and life

Motorcycle helmets, salad bowls, and prize cabbages

When was Father’s Day? Did I miss it? Did you?

Or,id you give him something kind of lame, but you never know what to get the guy anyway?

Besides, he was off riding with his buddies all day.

Well, here's a thought I want to share about Dad, and what the present meant even if it was lame.

Full disclosure, my Dad shook my hand and then passed away when I was out of the room years ago, so I tend to be working on Father’s Day and it blows right by.

The present, writing on the card, and going over to Dad's on the day meant something about being glad he's still around.

Sure, who gets along all the time? Bound to be some ups and downs, but generally that's better than funerals, so you got the card and all.

Good so far?

Now, I've been paying pretty close attention to things that can help keep dads around, if they ride motorcycles like yours does, because I'm one of the team of rider instructors at the Kelowna Safety Council.

They want me to talk about helmets as one of those things in particular, so here we go. They do, you know. Helmets do keep riders alive, and their brains functioning as well as they ever did, when said riders wear them.

Like seat belts, they save lives and prevent injuries when they're used.

But, and it is a very big but, not all of them do, and not all the time, again like seat belts.

This might be where you come in.

A good helmet, properly fitted and properly fastened, will do a good job in a crash. It can prevent brain injury in anywhere up to 60% of crashes with head impacts, and fatalities by roughly 35%.

Depending on how recent the research is that you're looking at, a full helmet protects the rider from 50-80% of the head impacts we tend to experience, all of them below the ear tops, and mostly from the ears forward.

How's Dad's face looking? Still got that chin? Think on.

The problem we need to get at though, is the fact that almost 100% of B.C. riders killed in bike crashes were "helmeted,” at least to some degree, because we have helmet laws.

There's pretty obviously a big gap in how those helmets are working out, a gap, as far as I can glean from all the research I've looked at, is about helmet design and fit.

ICBC isn't exactly forthcoming on this issue, so we have to look around the world for some guidance about the gaps in helmet performance and in our helmet laws.

Some of that guidance is this: when surgeons in Wisconsin asked why "helmeted" riders were showing up at their emergency wards with head and brain injuries, they discovered that in 64% of those cases, the helmet had parted company with the rider before it could have done any good.

So, not done up properly, or not possible to do up properly because of sloppy fit and design.

And then, as the Australians found, partial helmets offered no more than about 20% of the necessary protection in a crash. Even when done up nice and snug, they were essentially pointless.

We've known it was bad with partial helmets since at least 1991, courtesy of a Dr. Ouellet. He called it at around 45%, being American and needing to be somewhat conservative about saying bad things about that North American gold standard of (not) protection, the halfie, beanie, brain cap, whatever dad calls it.

They‘re still legal in B.C., for sort of the same reasons. Gap in our laws.

My point is about the thing Dad's been riding around with on his head. If it looks more like a salad bowl with strings attached and corny stickers than a full helmet, you may have a problem like mine come next Father’S Day. Nobody to hang out with and grouse about. 

Here's a possible solution that my fellow riding instructors - all my fellow riding instructors, all over the province - want you to consider very seriously.

Take Dad to a decent bike shop, get him properly fitted with a full helmet to replace the salad bowl, throw down the cash, and get the job done.

Use every bit of emotional blackmail you can dredge up, then some more, and make it your deal that he wears the thing.

Save the salad bowl for the prize cabbage, don't let him be one.


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About the Author

Bill Downey is a retired professional social worker in support programs for people with congenital or acquired physical and cognitive challenges, who was also a volunteer firefighter and a BCGEU health and safety advocate.

For many years, he has been a motorcycle riding coach/instructor with Kelowna Safety Council who spends too much time studying international traffic safety research and not enough time doing all the outdoor things a boy from the Okanagan should be doing.

He has lived a very large portion of his life on two wheels as a commuting and travelling cyclist, but, for the extra challenge, he is also as a motorcycle commuter.

By nature, he has a balanced approach to all things.

[email protected]https://kdsc.bc.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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