Barb Has A Soapbox Moment

I am having a MOMENT.

Well, okay,  I've BEEN having a few moments and now I must express myself and get this off my chest so that I can go back to obsessing over my own failures, which is what I normally spend my time doing.

Here's the thing: the nice weather has arrived and I see more and more kids on the roads on bikes, biking to school or for fun or with friends.

It breaks my heart how few of them are wearing helmets.

I know, I know, a lot of people just hit the delete button but just in case you're still with me, I have to tell you that I worked for four years in my Life Before Children for Goodwill Industries of Central Texas, raising money for people with disabilities.  Many of the people I was trying to help were people with head injuries that caused permanent loss of faculties-- both physical and mental. It changed my life forever.  I just can't see kids riding around without helmets without thinking of the kids I saw who will never ride a bike again.  Who will never take another step unassisted.  Who can't form sentences or grasp a fork.

It's a pretty simple thing, wearing a helmet.  There are agencies that give them away to kids whose parents can't afford them.  Any kind of protection is better than none --even those fairly useless-looking Army helmet things.  Because anything that puts a layer of something between your child's head and the concrete on which he or she is riding will help protect that precious brain.

My own children have to wear helmets any time they ride anything with wheels (and skis, actually) and so well have I indoctrinated them, when they see someone without a helmet, they always say, "That person must not be very smart." We keep extra helmets in case we have visitors who want to go for a ride.  We are SERIOUS about helmets.

I just can't let another day go by watching kids riding their bikes completely unprotected without saying something --y'all, ESPECIALLY given the drivers up here in New York.

I was going to add a YouTube clip here about bike/helmet safety but after watching three or four of them and deeming them too violent and gory, I had to stop searching and go throw up.

Please. No Helmet: No Ride.

What could possibly be more beautiful?


hokgardner said…
Yep, we're big believers in helmets around here.

The point was driven home for my by former Austin Mayor Bruce Todd. He is still in rehab more than two years after crashing on his bike and suffering a brain injury.

And then there is the friend who crashed hard enough to shatter his helmet. His comment was that if he hadn't been wearing a helmet, his head would have been the thing shattering.
Bullwinkle said…
I pay the price of not wearing a chin guard while roller blading 9 years ago. (I guess I'm thankful I had on the helmet - but really, I just miss my teeth.)

And other head injuries (the kind where no one expects you to wear protection) should serve as an example for the preventable type.

No helmet: no ride.
sldill said…
Several years back, my mother's cousin died due to a freak bicycle accident. She was not wearing a helmet. She was out alone testing her new bike. No one knows exactly what happened, but she had a traumatic head injury and was in the hospital several days before she was identified. (Another thing to consider if riding alone - have ID on you.) As if I wasn't already insane enough about helmets, this totally sealed it. One's brain is just too precious a commodity to go around unprotected.
Curmudgeoness said…
I spent part of my life before kids working for a law firm that specialized in traumatic personal injury cases (yes, that was loads of fun). I have seen enough of what happens when you do not wear a seat belt in a car or when you do not wear a helmet on a bike. Helmets are mandatory at my house. I tried to get the boys to wear them while sledding, too, but that has been rejected.

One time when I was in grad school (grad students could be identified as the only students on campus wearing bike helmets), I was riding my bike when the chain suddenly came off, bringing the bike to a dead stop and launching me over the handlebars. I landed smack on the top of my head.

Fortunately, I was wearing a helmet (grad student!), so I was conscious and able to hear motorists laughing at me as they drove by.

My point, though, is that it does not even take a crazy motorist to cause a bike accident.
Marion Gropen said…

A couple more stories: My younger sister was not wearing a helmet (though she almost always did) when her front wheel came off of the bike (dramatic details omitted, but this is a comment!) -- She had ELEVEN skull fractures, including one that would have gone all the way around her head, except it hit an ear 3/4 of the way. 12 hours of brain surgery, in a top trauma center. A month in the hospital. She's very, very, very lucky that there are almost no lasting effects.

If she had worn a helmet, she would have been injured, but not THAT way.

On the other hand, be really careful with kids riding bikes -- even helmets aren't always enough.

Two years ago, my then-8-year-old daughter's best friend in all the world was run down by a truck when biking back from the park with his dad. They were crossing with the light in a cross walk. The trucker was turning, and saw the father, but not the son. He never even felt the impact, and we can only hope that poor Zander didn't either.

BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR KIDS when it comes to things moving at high speed.
Tiny Tyrant said…
Here here honey. While they've said it's not the cause, I still believe the bike accident I had at age 8 had something to do with my hearing loss. Head over handle bars I went without a helmet.

PS What is the symbol on Ana's necklace?
Barb Matijevich said…
It's the Chinese symbol for Tiger. Ana was born in the Year of the Tiger and has been enamored of them ever since!

Marion, your story gave me chills. I'm wishing for that big old bubble I was promised to keep my kids safe...
Hannah said…
Preach it, sister. I'm totally with you on this one. And how about it adults would set a good example? I shudder when I see people riding down Burnet Rd, which has a bike lane of about three inches, bareheaded. I take it as a learning opportunity for my kids and get on my own soapbox. :-)
Kimos said…
Barb, you can add Carlyn’s experience to your list. Age 11, riding to school along a neighborhood street. Crossed the street (to be on the correct side) at an inauspicious spot and was creamed at full speed (well, full speed of 30mph) by a Suburban.

Fortunately, the car was left with a deep helmet-shaped dent, rather than a deep head-shaped dent. The rest of her injuries were fairly minor. Leg break, lots of road rash all along her body...

I yell at kids who aren't wearing helmets as I drive past.
Susan said…
Here, here! I totally agree. I'm also happy to see that Ana is wearing her helmet correctly and not pushed way back on her head. I made sure that I taught the school kids the 2 finger rule when I taught bike safety: the helmet should sit 2 finger widths above the eye brows or else is it just there for decoration and won't be optimum protection for your brain and it should be snug enough to stay there. I see so many kids with helmets that are almost hanging off the back of their heads.
Cheryl said…
I applaud your conscientiousness. I noticed in the photographs that your daughter's helmet is not quite on correctly. The back strap is too long and is going over the top of her ear instead of behind the ear, as it should be.
Barb Matijevich said…
Cheryl,thank you! I was hoping that posting a picture might illicit a critique of her helmet fitting from one of my more knowledgeable readers. She has what we call "The Cooper Melon," and I feel like I must be as informed as possible to keep it safe. Will adjust posthaste. --Barb
Mrs.Q said…
Amen! (And a Hallelujah! for good measure.)
Anonymous said…
Barb--Had to write. Is this your daughter? The helmet needs to be down lower, close to eyebrow level. Most of these injuries happen on the forehead. Please go to a bike shop to have adjusted if need be. My son, now 12, is a competitive cyclist who crashed at 10. The front of his helmet was gashed, he broke 4 teeth and had 30 stitches n his mouth. But his head was just fine, b/c the helmet was properly positioned. That is my soapbox, hope it helps!--LA mom
My 7-year-old daughter was riding around on the sidewalk and crashed full speed into a park bench. When those kids crash, they land hard! She was thrown on her side and the helmet took the brunt. I hate to think what would have happened to her without it.
Kathy Ireland said…
I hope you're wearing a helmet up there on that soapbox. LOL!!

Good message/good post.
Perdita Stevens said…
I was cheering along and then I mentioned your post to my husband, who is the adult cyclist in this household (I should say that both he and our son do, in fact, always wear helmets). He pointed out that actually despite lots of research on the matter there is no good evidence that wearing a cycle helmet reduces death or serious injury - indeed, there's now quite a body of evidence that it doesn't. Here are the first few places I googled up that look reasonable and have references to the research:
Barb Matijevich said…
Perdita, I saw those same statistics when I was looking for a PSA to link to.  But then  I found this page: and this one:

"Annually, 196 children younger than age 15 die from bicycle-related injuries. Approximately 8,900 additional children were hospitalized for bicycle-related injuries, and another 344,000 were treated and released in emergency departments. Bicycle helmets prevent 52 to 60 percent of bike-related head injury deaths (for all ages), as well as an estimated 68 to 85 percent of nonfatal head and scalp injuries, and 65 percent of upper and middle face injuries, even when misuse is considered. Thus, bicycle helmets significantly reduce the total medical costs for bike-related head injuries."

My own theory is that cycling is a more popular sport than it was before the helmet laws were so widely in effect, with a larger participating group.  It's a larger participating group but in some of these studies, the serious injury incidents are the same or lower.  That would say to me that helmets ARE saving lives and preventing injuries. 

It seems like the statistics are being manipulated by each side.  My husband is a serious cyclist and always wears a helmet, like your son and husband. For me, what it comes down to is wanting something between my child's fragile scalp and the concrete.
Deb said…
Good for you! Our kids always had to wear helmets. They're older teens now...I can't make them wear helmets now. Scary.
brian said…
she is a beautiful girl and lovely braces, her smile is adorable!