No helmet, no hope

Daryl Cobranchi says: Don’t let your kids bicycle without a helmet.

About Joanne


  1. Fuzzy Rider says:

    Amen. I’ve seen too many bicycle wrecks (and participated in one or two…) to ever want anyone to ride without a helmet. Far better to have a crushed helmet than a crushed cranium!

  2. Mad Scientist says:

    While it is indeed sad, even tragic, not wearing a helmet was probably not the cause of death.

    Those bike helmets are good for protecting you from bumps you may get when falling off a bike. They are next to worthless in a collision with a 2,000+ pound car. For real protection, you need to wear a rated motorcycle helmet.

    That being said, my condolences to the family.

  3. Thanks, Joanne.

  4. Walter Wallis says:

    Every little bit helps. I was putting seat belts in my cars in 1953, when it required serious mechanicing to install them. Actually, helmets in cars would help.

  5. Mike Roemer says:

    Although my heart goes out to the parents, still, I wonder how all of us pre-1980 reared kids EVER survived!! I still remember my dad’s “safety lecture” to us kids riding in the back of the ’53 Hudson. “Kid’s, if you see something is gonna happend, hit the floor!”. No bike helmets, no motorcycle helmets, no kneepads, just blue jeans.
    Of course, back in those days, if a kid fell off the “monkey bars” and broke their arm, it was just kid’s being kids. Now, lawsuit, remove all climbing apparatus, pad the playground, swaddle the little darlings so they can’t get as much as a bruise. Overstating the case?? maybe

  6. FYI Mike, many pre 1980 kids DIDN’T survive. Mortality rate trends for unintentional injuries have been steadily dropping for the last several decades. The bicycle injury death rate among children ages 14 and under declined by 48 percent from 1987 to 1997.
    You were lucky. Others weren’t.

  7. Mad Scientist says:

    Statistics like that mean close to nothing. If deaths were 2 and 10 years later it dropped to 1, that is a 50% decrease.

    And if someone who was wearing a helmet was crushed under the wheels, then I would imagine not wearing the helmet would not have mattered.

    Better to put it into terms of deaths per 100,000 population and report it that way

    I think the point Mike was making was that if accidental deaths due to falls from bikes were a critical concern, then most of us who grew up pre-helmet mania would not have.

    Since we survived childhood, then it really was not a big deal.

  8. Well, statistics like these mean a heck of a lot more than anecdotes do. I know people who’ve smoked for 50 years and aren’t dead yet but that doesn’t mean smoking isn’t a big deal.


    “Bicycle crashes rank second only to riding animals as a sports- or recreation-associated cause of serious injury; one study7 estimated the rate of severe injuries to be 37.4 per 100,000 population in urban areas.”

    “Bicycle-related injuries account for approximately 900 deaths, 23,000 hospital admissions, 580,000 emergency department visits and more than 1.2 million physician visits per year in the United States, resulting in an estimated cost of more than $8 billion annually.3-5”

    “Bicycle helmets offer a substantial protective effect by reducing the risk for bicycle-related injuries to the head by 74 to 85 percent and to the nose and upper face by approximately 65 percent.34,37”

    You survived childhood. Others didn’t. Maybe not a big deal to you, but it is to their families.

  9. Mad Scientist says:


    While tragic, one must realize that everything one does carries some degree of risk. The article stated that the biker “pedaled onto the road near his home and into the path of a car”. The article goes on to say: “They think he went to turn and went left in front of a car,” Clary said. “It was a mistake he made.”

    And your statistics are bogus. First, footnotes (1) do not prove anything unless what is cited is actually cited (2). Second, look at the weasel words: “estimated”, “approximately”, amd the like.

    Your first statistic suggests the injury rate is less tham 40 parts per million. Helmets will not reduce the injury rate; they may reduce the severity. Try actually teaching people to ride and the rules of the road (that would have saved this kid). Have them apply common sense. Most accidents happen because somebody does something stupid (as in this case).

    Your second statistic is just bludgenoing people with what seem to be large numbers, which I tend to not believe. I sincerely doubt that the cost figure is $8 billion. The economy is around $8 trillion. The number you throw out there suggests that these injuries account for 1/10th of 1% of the entire US economy. I don’t think so.

    Your third statistic again is meaningless as it has absolutely no reference point as I stated in a previous post (3).

    Tell me: Why do you not see a proliferation of bicycle helmets in Europe and Asia where people tend to use bikes as a primary mode of transportation? Don’t you think the paternalistic socialists in the EU would mandate helmets if they saw the issue as critical as you do?

  10. I grew up when bicycle helmets were unheard of. My friends and I rode our bikes hard and fast, and we each lost control at high speeds a few times. I’ve had a stiff knee ever since I got my new ten speed going so fast I couldn’t steer around a big tree, but I can’t remember anyone ever conking his head. We weren’t stupid – if you were going to crash, you made sure some body part other than the head hit first.

    The most serious bike injury I heard of was a shattered leg that took a year to heal – this 4th-grade boy rolled his bike out to the end of his driveway, waved at one of his mother’s friends driving by, started out into the road, and bang into the side of her car. No helmet, pad, other gear, or speed limits would have made a bit of difference, he just wasn’t paying attention. And since I heard about this although it happened at the other end of town and I didn’t meet the boy until later (he went right back to wild biking as soon as he could mow enough lawns to buy a used bike), I think it probably was really the worst bicycle accident our town of 25,000 had in years. By contrast, there were several fatal car accidents every year, and every winter some kids in school with a leg in a cast from skiing.

    Yes, helmets reduce a miniscule risk even further. But it seems to me that kids seek perceived risks. (So do many adults, e.g. downhill skiing, bungee jumping, parachuting.) If peddling a bicycle fast without a helmet will satisfy that urge, it’s a whole lot safer than many things kids could be doing.

  11. From
    “Bicycle helmets offer a substantial protective effect by reducing the risk for bicycle-related injuries to the head by 74 to 85 percent and to the nose and upper face by approximately 65 percent.34,37”

    Do they prevent all head injuries? Of course not. No one ever made that claim. But helmets DO reduce morbidity and mortality. And they are such a cheap, benign, nonintrusive intervention I can’t imagine why someone would choose to ride without one.

    And yes, education and common sense are important, but they will never eliminate the need for helmets.

  12. Mad Scientist says:

    Then why not just eliminate bikes?

    I love the table of risk factors. These include: Cyclist is male (Y), Cyclist is nine to 14 years of age (N), Cycling in the summer (N), Cycling in late afternoon or early evening (N),
    Cyclist does not wear helmet (Y), Motor vehicle involved (Y), Unsafe riding environment (N), Cyclist is from an unstable family environment (N),
    Cyclist has preexisting psychiatric condition(N), Cyclist is intoxicated (N), Cyclist is involved in competitive mountain-bike racing (N).

    It is interesting to note that there is no “risk Factor” for “Cyclist does something stupid”.

    The clincher is that AAFP mimimizes the effect of proper safety training when they state “general safety advice also may offer some protection”.

    You still have not answered why this is not an issue in Europe.

  13. KPM: The reduction in head injuries due to helmets is meaningless without the rate of head injuries – and you haven’t cited that rate.

  14. Apologies for not providing a link (fact is I’m about to go to bed) but there’s debate in Australia as to whether lives have been lost or saved since helmets became compulsory there. Cranial injuries are down, but whiplash injuries up. More importantly cycle use has gone right down, with a consequent loss of the health benefits cycling brings.

  15. Fuzzy Rider says:

    Helmets are not the only factor to be considered- I work on a lot of kids’ bikes (there is no bike shop in town) so I get to see some of the crappy bikes being sold at Wally World and K-Mart. The quality of these bikes is far below horrid, even when maintained properly (something I’ve never seen a kid inclined to do) mechanical failures are frequent and often catastrophic. I estimate that 50% of the bikes I work on come in without functional brakes! It is a wonder that anyone would let a kid ride that kind of junk- helmet or not!