Wearing a helmet cuts the risk of serious head injury, which account for 80 per cent of all cycling deaths, by at least 85 per cent.
All that’s needed to avoid head injuries is spend about $30 for a helmet and strap it on every time you ride.
Bike helmets are mandatory in B.C. for any cyclist riding on a highway or any road, including parking lots, side streets, alleys and driveways.
The fine for not wearing a helmet is about the same price as a good basic helmet – $29. Parents can be fined too for allowing children under 16 to ride without helmets.
Const. Rob Weaver of the Nanaimo RCMP Bike Patrol Unit says he often cancels tickets for fined cyclists who come back wearing new helmets and show receipts for their purchases.
Helmets are not required on designated bike and pedestrian paths, such as the E&N Trail, but since bike paths have their own hazards and cross highways it’s safer and more convenient to wear one.
“On a bike, things happen very quickly and, boom, you never know when you’re going to need that helmet,” Weaver said.
Karina Younk, principal of Park Avenue Elementary School, used to show her students the helmet that saved her son’s life.
He commuted daily from their home in Departure Bay to Nanaimo District Secondary School. One morning he pulled over to let a truck pass on Wakesiah Avenue and ran over a pile of leaves. A stick flipped up into the spokes of the front wheel, sending him head first into the pavement.
The helmet was destroyed, but he was uninjured.
“It was certainly impressive when the kids ran their fingers down the five cracks in the helmet,” Younk said.
Nanaimo neuropsychologist Diane Russell works with children who have suffered traumatic brain injuries.
She keeps an old poster from the Canadian Brain Coalition in her office that features a photo of a skull with the caption: Hey, Bonehead. Wear a helmet. Her young patients appreciate the humour.
Russell said anything that impacts the head impacts the brain and new data gained from professional sports injuries is revealing the potential for brain injury from even mild impacts to the head.
Repeated concussions are proving to be especially dangerous. Suffering a second, even mild, brain concussion, she said, too soon after suffering an initial concussion can even be fatal in some cases.
“The bottom line is, wear a helmet,” she said.
The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute’s website at www.bhsi.org, is a great source of information about helmet types, fitting, plus injury and death statistics. The site also features information compiled by the B.C. Coroner’s Service.