Bike helmet keeps Marine on safe path
A Bike ride in paradise turned nearly tragic, except for the helmet the rider was wearing. In 2005, Eve Baker, a major in the Marine Corps Reserve, was riding her bike to work at Marine Corps Base Hawaii when she was hit by a car.
“I was coming out of my neighborhood, coming down a hill when another driver came right at me,” said Baker. “I went face first into the windshield at about 40 miles per hour, and I went over the car.”
Losing consciousness, Baker was taken to a local hospital. While she struggled with amnesia immediately after the accident and has had a long journey recovering from the traumatic brain injury she suffered, she’s back on a bike today, thanks to the helmet she was wearing. “It shattered on impact, like it’s supposed to, so it absorbed the brunt of the impact.”
Making sure bicycle riders wear helmets is just half of the battle. Scott Livingston, director of education for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC), part of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE), said the helmet must fit right.
“Not all bicycle helmets are the same, and one size does not fit all,” he said. “Especially for parents buying a helmet for a child, it’s important the person who actually plans to wear the helmet tries it on for a proper fit.”
Livingston said the helmet must have a snug fit, with no spaces between the foam padding and the wearer’s head. He added people also need to keep in mind how hairstyle will affect the fit. The helmet shouldn’t fit too high on the top of the head or so low that it obscures the rider’s vision. Wearers also need to make sure the straps cross the chin firmly so the helmet stays on the head during a crash or fall. Check A Head For the Future’s “Ride Right” fact sheet for more fitting information. While Livingston didn’t recommend any particular brand of helmet, he did say you shouldn’t buy a used helmet and the new one you buy needs to be tested and approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Furthermore, if a rider has a crash and the helmet is damaged, replace it with a new one.
Livingston stressed that no piece of equipment guarantees safety.
“A bike helmet, while not preventing all brain injuries, substantially reduces a person’s risk of having a more severe injury,” said Livingston.
Children, in particular, need to wear a helmet, and Livingston said the habit for them starts with adults setting the right example. “Children learn from what they see adults doing,” he said.
Baker is riding her bike again, with, of course, a new helmet, although she admitted she is more cautious about where she bikes and the conditions for her rides. She can’t emphasize enough the value helmets bring.
“Helmets might be uncomfortable, or you might think it looks dorky or nerdy, but it saves your life,” said Baker. “If I hadn’t been wearing a helmet, I wouldn’t be here today.”