Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Helmets and risk

I mentioned I don't wear a helmet when cycling and don't encourage my kids to either. There are various reasons for this. One is probably sheer cussedness (aka pride). But there is more to it than that.

I think that there are a number of cultural agendas at work which I choose to counter.

One is the preference of the authorities to keep us living in fear. The populace is much more malleable and prepared to accept much more dictatorial government when it is scared. So to convince us that everything (even cycling!) is a high risk activity increases the power of the politicos.

The press collude with this. Their love is drama - that's what sells papers and news bulletins. So dramatic accidents are great for them - which is one of the reasons why most people in this country have a much greater fear of accidents than the statistics warrant. (the same is true of crime, particularly violent crime).

Then of course we have the commercial interests. Cycle helmet manufacturers would sell far fewer of their products if we weren't all indoctrinated to believe that cycling without a helmet is the equivalent of ordering a pint of hemlock at your local.

Finally there is the general consumer mentality: no longer can you tuck your trouser leg into your sock and hop on your bike. You have to put on your lycra cycling shorts and top, your special cycling shoes, your helmet and so on. (Have you noticed how all casual activities have now been deemed to require huge amounts of specialist clothing and kit?)

So I eschew all that.

We do assess and mitigate risk. But I think the risk of my kids being scared of life and unable to cope with a few knocks is far greater than the risk of their getting brain damage by not wearing a cycle helmet.

And experience suggests I'm right. The kids are always falling out of trees, off bikes, from swings and so on. They have far more petty injuries than their peers. They are also braver and tougher (in the sense of putting up with a scratch or a scrape) and most significantly have far fewer serious injuries: they learn (the hard way) to take reasonable care.


Convenor said...

We’d be very glad if you could (a) post about the new blog and (b) link to it.

In particular, we’d be glad if you could bring to the attention of your readers the news that there will be a Traditional Latin Mass for the Holy Year of St. Paul in St. Paul’s Church, Emo, Co. Laois, Ireland, on Saturday, 30th August, 2008, for which the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin has granted, under the usual conditions, the Plenary Indulgence for the Pauline Holy Year.

Another post that might be interested is a report of our recent walking pilgrimage for vocations:

God bless you!

St. Conleth’s Catholic Heritage Association

Peter said...

In general I agree with you about the culture of fear. It is probably more prevelant in the US than in Australia, but it's there in spades.

Having said that, in 1989 I was hit from behind by a car while riding my push bike. My head hit the road and I would almost certainly be dead now if I wasn't wearing a helmet.

I know a doctor who, having seen the results of head injuries in car accidents, insists that all his family wear helmets inside his car. Even having suffered a head injury, I won't be doing that to my children. Maybe they should just make cars our of bubble wrap?