Helmet awareness prevents serious injuries

Senior Master Sgt. Steven M. Benoit
435th Air Base Wing Safety office

Many people receive head injuries while riding bicycles without a helmet each year – about 900 bicycle-related deaths in the United States and another half million bicycle-related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Several years ago, I had the misfortune of responding to an accident involving an Air Force member who lost control of his bicycle and collided with a guardrail. If the individual would’ve been wearing a helmet his death would have been prevented. This was a tragic and needless loss of life – what if this was your spouse or child?
Just as it’s important for military personnel to wear a helmet, it’s equally important for our family members, especially our children, to wear one too. For us to be responsible parents and adults, we need to set the example for children. They are much more susceptible to injury than adults.
Another unpleasant experience I had to endure took place at another base. Two 10-year-old children had similar but separate bicycle mishaps. Both children fell off their bikes and their heads struck against the pavement. Both received concussions and multiple fractures to their skull. One of those children almost died. She came out of a coma and now has permanent brain damage. Neither was wearing a helmet.
Does helmet use only apply to riding a bike though? How about the use of skateboards and in-line skating? Falling on asphalt or concrete from these activities can hurt almost, or even as much as falling from a bicycle. Many people I know believe serious injuries from these popular activities only occur when they’re involved in an accident with a car. The truth is the majority of injuries that occur from bicycles, skateboards and rollerblading are from falling – usually from riding too fast and losing control.
Falls don’t just occur in streets, they can happen at anytime and anywhere. A serious head injury can cause a lifelong disability, even death. That is why it’s important to wear a helmet, whether for riding a bike, using a skateboard or rollerblading.

Tips on helmet safety:

l Buy a helmet that bears a label saying it meets the American National Standards Institute standard Z90.40 1984; the Snell Memorial Foundation standard B 90, B 90S, N 94, or B 95; the American Society for Testing and Materials standard F 1447 93 or F 1447 94; or the Canadian Standards Association standard CAN/CSA D113.2 M89.
l Wear the helmet flat atop the head. The helmet should not be worn on the head tilted back at an angle.
l Ensure the helmet fits snugly and does not obstruct the field of vision.
l Always wear the helmet with the chin strap firmly buckled. No combination of twisting or pulling should remove the helmet from the head or loosen the buckle on the strap.
l Do not use a helmet after it has been involved in an accident. Even very small cracks in the helmet may greatly reduce a helmet’s effectiveness in preventing injury.
l As a reminder, bicyclists are subject to the same traffic laws as motorists, e.g. equipped with mandatory items (light, taillight, bell or horn, etc.), obeying posted speed limits, right of way law, signaling, stopping at stoplights and signs etc.