Debunking the excuses

Jim Hemmert, local bicycle enthusiast, shows the cracks made on a bicycle helmet after the rider wrecked and fell forward over the bicycle’s handlebars.

MIAMI COUNTY — With many opting to be “cool” and comfortable rather deal with the perceived inconvenience of wearing a helmet, there are many excuses that abound. Those excuses may not be worth listening to, though, when compared to the alternate possibility of getting hurt while bicycling.

The major excuses that local bicyclist enthusiast Jim Hemmert has come across from parents not wanting to wear or purchase a helmet include:

  • “I never thought about purchasing one.”
  • “I never got around to buying one.”
  • “My child won’t wear it anyway.”
  • “It’s too expensive.”
  • “My child doesn’t ride enough.”
  • “We only ride in safe areas.”

Parents are being encouraged to overcome the excuses and not only set good examples by wearing helmets themselves, but talk to their kids about the importance of wearing of helmets.

“Thirty dollars to $40 to save your life?” Hemmert said, discussing the investment of a bicycle helmet.

According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head or brain injuries for all ages of bicyclists by 66 to 88 percent. “Helmets provide equal levels of protection for crashes involving motor vehicles…and crashes from all other causes,” which are 69 and 68 percent, respectively, according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. “Injuries to the upper and mid-facial areas are reduced 65 [percent].”

On a helmet that Hemmert owns that previously belonged to someone who wrecked on his bicycle while wearing that helmet, there are distinct cracks in the foam.

“I talked this man into riding with a helmet,” Hemmert said about the previous owner of the broken helmet. “I finally talked him into wearing a helmet. He is two miles north of New Bremen, has a bicycle wreck and has to call his wife.” The man suffered a broken collarbone and multiple abrasions, according to Hemmert.

The hard, outer shell of the helmet was able to remain intact during the wreck, doing its job of sliding along the pavement.

“When he hit the black top, he skidded,” Hemmert said. “The hard shell did exactly what it was supposed to do. It allowed him to keep moving.”

The foam of the helmet also did its job of absorbing the brunt of the trauma of the wreck.

“The inside did exactly what it was supposed to do,” Hemmert said. “Instead of crushing his skull, there are five major cracks in this helmet. So, I am a strong advocate of bicycle helmets.”

As for the excuse of only riding in safe places, Hemmert said that he has known another man who has wrecked three times in his own driveway. Places or times that may seem safe may actually have more potential for being a spot for a wreck or a bicycle-related accident. It is during the bicycling season of May to August that most bicycle-related accidents and death tend to occur. They also most commonly occur at non-intersections, between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., and on local streets, according to Hemmert.

When it comes to children, the major excuses that Hemmert has heard during his experience of doing bicycle safety demonstrations with Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and other organizations includes:

  • “I don’t like the fit.”
  • “It’s uncomfortable.”
  • “The chinstraps pinch.”
  • “I don’t feel it’s necessary.”
  • “I forgot it”
  • “I lost it.”

“Sometimes seat belts are uncomfortable,” Hemmert said. Hemmert pointed out that helmets can be fit properly and the chinstraps readjusted until the helmet is barely noticeable. Rectifying the other excuses centered around parents continually discussing wearing a helmet with their children.

“We strongly encourage all bicyclists to wear helmets,” Deputy Chief Dave Duchak with the Miami County Sheriff’s Office said. Duchak also stated the sheriff’s office encourages parents create dialogue with their children about bicycling and about bicycling law.

“Don’t be afraid to ride a bicycle,” Hemmert said, “but be cautious … and aware of the dangers when you’re out there.”