Sunday, February 04, 2007

Safety Proposition: Helmets for Car Rides

I'm starting a new feature called Safety Propositions. I'm calling them propositions because they could just be my crazy ideas. But I'll set them out periodicially and see if I can persuade anyone with my tactical safety suggestions.

I think we should all wear light-weight helmets during long car rides. The idea first occurred to me after seeing a television report on insurance fraud. People who crash their cars on purpose wear motorcycle helmets. It's a prudent precaution when you know you're going to be in an accident.

But Americans get in fatal car accidents rarely given how many miles they drive. |PDF| I totally agree that if you're just running errands around town, it's a hassle to put on a helmet every time you get in the car and the benefit to hassle ratio is very poor.

But let's say you hop into the car for a road trip and you're going to drive for three or more hours at highway speeds. Given the risk of a serious accident associated with high rates of speed, why not strap on a helmet?

Car accidents generate life-threatening head wounds when there is impact and twisting, the combination is not good for your brain and spinal cord. A helmet won't do anything for the twisting, but it will decrease the impact. It will at least diminish the first impact. If you roll your car, a bike helmet isn't going to do you much good.

Bike helmets, skateboard helmets, and rappelling helmets all will absorb a fair amount of impact. If you already own one, there's no cost involved. I once tried it on a long ride and I found it wasn't uncomfortable at all. I admit I don't do this frequently because Sarah would ridicule me to no end (like she'll do for this post)...but I think the benefit-hassle ratio is far more attractive for long road trips.

Before you decide that I'm totally off my rocker, think about the millions of Americans who will spend tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade to an SUV using the excuse that it makes them safer in an accident...yet wouldn't even contemplate doing something to make themselves safer that might mess up their hair. Which is some evidence that SUV's are about status and image rather than safety.

1 comment:

Les said...

I believe we should all be safe. But I also believe that it is time to make individuals responsible for safety! I think about long and short trips. I don't trust anyone on the road. I stay alert and also plan on stopping for breaks to keep alert. I truly believe that if you were to put helmets as mandatory for long trips you might save one, but if you concentrated on driver responsibility, enforcement of road rules, couresty and education, you might save all who were riding in the vechile, not just the one who decided to wear the helmet.
Les the mess