Cycle helmet wearers are reckless

flecc

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Oct 25, 2006
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Getting back to your original point, people tend naturally to want to support decisions that they have made. Hence your suggestion above seems the most likely explanation.
I agree John. I think a small part of the discrepancy is probably due to the effect that helmet wearing has, producing an increase in risk taking, an effect well researched with other secondary safety equipment like seatbelts.

The rest which is the majority will be due to exaggeration of the likely outcomes reported. My opening statement regarding recklessness reflected a tongue in cheek acceptance of the likely outcomes reported.
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bode

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May 14, 2008
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Yes, but don't you think it sad that a good humoured introduction to a thread making a valid point should give rise to such partisan behaviour on both sides of a different subject, the original subject almost completely ignored.
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I do think it sad, but your original post did seem to imply that you wanted to stir up a controversy, and sometimes it's not good to get what you wish for.
 

rog_london

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Jan 3, 2009
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I agree John. I think a small part of the discrepancy is probably due to the effect that helmet wearing has, producing an increase in risk taking, an effect well researched with other secondary safety equipment like seatbelts.

The rest which is the majority will be due to exaggeration of the likely outcomes reported. My opening statement regarding recklessness reflected a tongue in cheek acceptance of the likely outcomes reported.
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On that subject - did you see the program on risk and insurance on TV the other night? (BBC2, Wednesday 9pm, Evan Davis). He seems to me to be an intelligent and articulate guy, and he was expounding on the thrill of risk-taking and how it has screwed banks and insurance companies - but paralleling that with his love of motor bikes, and the fact that he believed wearing protective clothing and a helmet didn't really make it any safer, it encouraged the rider to be, shall we say, less conservative.

I'm not commenting on what he had to say because it was aimed in a slightly different direction, but it seems to be well recognized that we take more chances if we 'feel' safe, and it's a more generalized thing than this rather specialized business of the merits or otherwise of wearing a plastic and polystyrene colander....

Rog.
 

flecc

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Oct 25, 2006
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I do think it sad, but your original post did seem to imply that you wanted to stir up a controversy, and sometimes it's not good to get what you wish for.
Indeed the "mischievous" mention showed I wouldn't have minded a controversy on the thread subject which had a contentious element to the conclusion. I would have welcomed a vigorous debate on that since it could have had a useful outcome, but I certainly didn't get what I wished for since the distortion of the subject meant the thread was wasted.
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Bikerbob

Pedelecer
May 10, 2007
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"The helmets debate as ever a completely sterile one which could never result in agreement, a bit like the abortion issue"

The above is a quote of what you said, flecc, in another thread on the subject. I agree.
 

flecc

Member
Oct 25, 2006
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On that subject - did you see the program on risk and insurance on TV the other night? (BBC2, Wednesday 9pm, Evan Davis). He seems to me to be an intelligent and articulate guy, and he was expounding on the thrill of risk-taking and how it has screwed banks and insurance companies - but paralleling that with his love of motor bikes, and the fact that he believed wearing protective clothing and a helmet didn't really make it any safer, it encouraged the rider to be, shall we say, less conservative.

I'm not commenting on what he had to say because it was aimed in a slightly different direction, but it seems to be well recognized that we take more chances if we 'feel' safe, and it's a more generalized thing than this rather specialized business of the merits or otherwise of wearing a plastic and polystyrene colander....

Rog.
Yes, I did see that Rog. The subject of how feeling safe leads to more risk taking has been widely researched and our own Roads Research Laboratory produced some hard evidence around the time of the compulsory seatbelt wearing introduction.

Prior to the introduction they studied driving speeds in a number of specific locations, then repeated the identical tests at intervals afterwards. The outcome was a marked increase in driving speeds which remained consistent.

Far less a rigorous observation is the one we cyclists make about 4 x 4 drivers. They widely perceive their vehicles as being much safer than ordinary saloons and hatchbacks, and their aggressive driving is often very evident.
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flecc

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Oct 25, 2006
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"The helmets debate as ever a completely sterile one which could never result in agreement, a bit like the abortion issue"

The above is a quote of what you said, flecc, in another thread on the subject. I agree.
Absolutely Bob, which is why I didn't want another one. I feel like the kid at Christmas who wanted a train set and got a pair of socks instead. :(
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halflife

Pedelecer
Jul 12, 2008
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Luck holding for 63 years is impossible John. A clue might be my always having full no claims bonus on my cars and motorcycles, and even extra preferred policyholder discount when that was available. Clearly I know how to take care of my safety, and miracles don't come into it. There honestly isn't a single mark on me from a road accident, nor has there ever been.

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About 5 years ago I had a head on collision with a van (white van man ) on my motorbike because he cut the corner on the bend. I would have had to have been god himself to have predicted the accident, irrespective of how much no claims I might have it was unavoidable on my behalf. I know we are talking cycle helmets here not motorcycles but I think the principal applies. I spent 4 months in hospital, a significant proportion in intensive care fighting for my life (I am not trying to be melodramatic but I am trying to make a point). I would not be here now if I had not been wearing a helmet. Wearing a helmet is personal choice, If people don’t want to wear one and don’t see a risk attached to this then it is thier choice.

From my perspective I always try to due to my history. Unfortunately for some people they may not be as lucky as me to get another chance to make that choice.
 
C

Cyclezee

Guest
Halflife,

I hope you made a full recovery from your accident. I almost hesitate to ask the reason for your 'handle'.

I think what people need to remember is that Flecc is currently a Guru and not very far removed from God, therefore does not require the same level of protection or luck as mere mortals:rolleyes:

J:) hn
 

flecc

Member
Oct 25, 2006
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About 5 years ago I had a head on collision with a van (white van man ) on my motorbike because he cut the corner on the bend. I would have had to have been god himself to have predicted the accident,
That's where luck does come in halflife, and it was clearly bad luck for you that your arrival at that point coincided with an irresponsible van driver.

The point I was making to John is that luck isn't responsible for a very long safe record, it's 99% due to what the driver/rider does and 1% good luck. In your case the 1% of good luck you needed at that moment wasn't there, but I'm sure your safety at all other times was largely due to your riding.

Conversely, when someone suffers high levels of so-called bad luck on the roads it's due to accident proneness for whatever reasons, not bad luck.
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flecc

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Oct 25, 2006
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I think what people need to remember is that Flecc is currently a Guru and not very far removed from God, therefore does not require the same level of protection or luck as mere mortals:rolleyes:
But I wasn't a Guru for those 63 years John. :)

I didn't want to muddy my answer when you originally posted about luck and at that time assumed I'd had no accidents, but in fact that was not the case.

In the first 16 years of my 56 years of car etc driving I had three accidents, all with third party admission of liability paying all my costs. None were serious due to my avoiding action each time, the damage to the cars moderate. Although I was officially not to blame at all in each case, accidents are highly inconvenient and that cause me to have a good think about the circumstances of all three.

I concluded in each case that there were more things I could have done and different ways I could have been driving, leading me to conclude that I did have a degree of responsibility for each. From then I adopted a different approach to many things on the road. For example, when another road user does something that places me at risk, I don't waste time thinking such things as "What the hell is that maniac doing" etc, instead immediately thinking about why I was in the position of being at risk.

You can draw your own conclusions about that, but to me 16 years with three driving accidents followed by 40 years of none following that change of attitude says something, and luck isn't that something.

Another conclusion can be drawn from me having those three car accidents but none at all on motorcycles which I rode more intensively in those early years. Same roads, same circumstances, same user, I just see that as being aware of how much more vulnerable I was on bikes, leading to more care. i.e. The outcome was due to me, not luck.
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fishingpaul

Esteemed Pedelecer
Sep 24, 2007
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I choose not to wear a helmet,and have never had an accident in 27 years of driving and around 20 years of cycling,i have put this down to pure luck and thinking ahead,i certainly do not think i would have ridden any differently, if i had been riding with a helmet in all those years, and i would not advise other people not to wear a helmet ,a helmet could save your life,if i ever find myself headed towards the floor,i know i will wish i was wearing a helmet.
 

Tiberius

Esteemed Pedelecer
Nov 9, 2007
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Last night a helmet saved my life

Yep, I'm feeling mischievous! :D

I've just seen yet another poster claiming he wouldn't be posting if he hadn't been wearing a helmet when he had a crash. Apart from the fact that the many who regularly say such things cannot possibly know that, one wonders about all the non-wearers who survive to post.

As someone who rode motorcycles intensively and almost daily over high mileages without helmets for 22 years, and has ridden bicycles for 63 years, unpowered, petrol powered and electric powered, I have yet to have even parted my hair on a road surface.

I therefore conclude that those who wear helmets and post their lurid survival accounts are reckless since they have so many serious accidents.
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I'm starting this post by quoting the beginning of the thread, in the hope that we can keep it on track. Somewhere in the middle of the thread I threatened you all with some science and statistical analysis; well, I've now gathered the information to do this.

Flecc is correct to observe that there is a surprisingly large number of helmet wearers surviving crashes. He was mischievous in suggesting that was because they were more reckless that non helmet wearers, but I've already given him a hard time on that. What I want to address here is the far more interesting question of what do we make of all these reports of helmets saving the population.

Here is the input data we need:

Proportion of cyclists wearing helmets. Frank posted a chart showing this is 22% in the UK, but that was for pre 2003 data. I've seen a figure of 29% for 2004, so let's use 29%.

Number of cyclists suffering head injuries. For 2007 the figures are 146 killed, 2,428 seriously injured. The rate of cyclist hospitalisation for a similar period was 13,368. I haven't seen a breakdown into what type of injuries those were, but let's suppose that most of the deaths and serious injuries were head incidents and work with a figure of 1,500 head injuries a year to cyclists.

Number of active cyclists. This was difficult to find. There are 27 m cyclists in the UK according to the DfT, but we need to know the number of regular or active ones, not the once a year ones. Working down from that 27 m and up from the 0.5 million journeys a day in London, I figure its about 5 million.

The exact figures don't matter, what we're doing here is a quick check on believability and consistency, not an analysis of whether or not to wear a helmet.

The final pieces of info we need are that there are about 1,500 people registered on this forum and that 2 of them have now come forward to say they have been saved by a helmet. There may well be many lurkers who could say the same, but there's no way to count those.

Let me say straight off that there is no reason to doubt the sincerity and intentions of those people, but let's look at the implications of those statements.

What we have is that, out of a group of people interested in cycling, and presumably doing it regularly, 1 in 750 claim to have been been in an accident where a helmet saved them. That figure, however, is over their cycling lifetime to date; if we assume that is an average of 10 years, then we can convert that to an annual rate of 1 in every 7500 cyclists being saved by helmets.

But similar accidents can be expected to happen to non helmet-wearers. And there are 2.1 times as many of them (61%/29%). So that means an annual rate of 1 in every 3,571 not being saved.

That would mean that out of a cycling population of 5 million, it would be expected that 1,400 would suffer serious head injuries that wearing a helmet would have prevented.

I have to say that I started this analysis expecting that it would throw up a ludicrous figure showing how people are being alarmist. But it turns out that that 1,400 a year is in line with the official accident statistics, or certainly not far enough out of line to make a fuss about. I haven't fiddled the figures; I made the estimates and froze them before I started the calculations.

So the answer is that 2 people on the board being able to claim that helmets saved their lives is quite believable and consistent with the known statistics.

It turns out that it is not actually a surprisingly large number and we don't have to look for explanations (the recklessness charge, for instance) to explain it.

Nick

PS. 2 people out of 1500 is a small sample and its dangerous to read too much into it. That's why all I'm doing is checking it for consistency. But if 10 more people now chime in and claim that helmets saved them, I'm going to start worrying.
 

Phil the drill

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Jun 14, 2008
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So the answer is that 2 people on the board being able to claim that helmets saved their lives is quite believable and consistent with the known statistics.
Hi Nick,

The problem with this is still the contention that 'the helmet definitely saved me'
I'm afraid you really can't possibly judge this for yourself. It is simply impossible to know what the consequences would have been in the same accident without a helmet. Inspired guesses based on helmet damage really don't give any kind of accurate indication. It is likely that in many cases those who were 'saved' were simply saved from a very nasty cut or gash. If that is the case, then that may well be a reasonable justification for wearing a helmet, but it would also represent a significant over expectation of the capacity of the helmet to protect in a significant accident. Cycle helmets are a poor kind of protective wear on the whole, and worse now we have abandoned Snell standards in the UK and adopted the far inferior testing to the euro standard.
Those who really feel the need for a helmet you would be well advised to 1) get one that fits properly (very important as noted previously) and 2) Try to find a helmet certified to the far superior Snell standards (few are available here, they are an American standard, but I believe that some of the 'Specialized' models have been built to this standard). In the U.K. we used to have this standard (I have an old Bell helmet that was) but since the adoption of the EU standard this has completely disappeared. One area where European standards have been a significant retrograde step here in the UK.

Phil.
 
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flecc

Member
Oct 25, 2006
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PS. 2 people out of 1500 is a small sample and its dangerous to read too much into it. That's why all I'm doing is checking it for consistency. But if 10 more people now chime in and claim that helmets saved them, I'm going to start worrying.
Sorry Nick, but this is the fatal flaw. In my experience both in this forum previously and elsewhere, the proportion of helmet wearers who claim to have had their lives saved or been prevented from having serious head injury/brain damage etc is way over 1 in 750.

My own equivalent calculations have resulted in a claim range of 10,000 to 40,000 suffering death or serious head injuries, rather than your 1400.

I repeat, your 1 in 750 helmet wearers making the claims in question is completely out line with such evidence as I've observed and it's basis is very unsound. I could equally remark on the fact that of the five different cyclists and only three helmet wearing that I see regularly at my local Sainsburys bike rack, one is a vigorous claimant of certain death from his accident, a ratio of 1 in in 3. That would turn your 1400 into 350,000, a very large error in the other direction.

My impression is that a fairly high proportion of helmet wearers make these untrue claims on the basis of the flimsiest of evidence.
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frank9755

Esteemed Pedelecer
May 19, 2007
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Nick,

I think its useful to set things out in this way to think about the bits of the question individually, but I feel you get to the wrong answer because some of your assumptions are not quite right.

Firstly, number of cyclists suffering head injuries. As you say, we don't have the data, however I feel your assumption "most of the deaths and serious injuries were head incidents" is likely to be wrong, maybe by quite a large margin. Again, we don't know what is defined as a serious injury but presumably it could include things like broken wrists, arms, collar bones, hip/pelvis damage, etc - ie the things that tend to happen in a bad fall. The fact is that when you fall off on the road (as opposed to a mountain trail, which we're not talking about), it's rare that your head gets hurt. By far the most common type of vehicle vs bike accident is a vehicle turning into a bike or sideswiping it, leading to the bike being pushed over, more like a normal fall. Head on collisions and hits from behind, where the rider is likely to be thrown in the air, risking a head injury on landing, are comparatively rare.

Secondly, the number of cyclists on the forum posting with claims that helmet-wearing saved them from death or serious injury. I haven't done the searches but, prior to this thread, I was also feeling irked by the number of times this was coming up. I'm sure it is more than two!

Finally and most importantly, as Phil says, the assumption that the helmet has actually saved people from a worse outcome is the most flawed. There just is not the evidence to support this.

In the case of the individuals, how could they or their doctors possibly know what would have happened otherwise? Most likely the result would have been pretty similar, because helmets can not provide that much protection. The helmet is more likely to have saved them from superficial damage than serious brain injury, because that is what helmets do. However, without a helmet they may have avoided the accident altogether by having better visibility, or had a better outcome by avoiding rotational damage (twisting) or indeed avoiding any head impact at all - these are both more likely with a larger, helmeted head.

The same applies when you try to apply this to the population as a whole. John Franklin, who has done more reasearch into this than I ever will, wrote somewhere that he is aware of six people of who have been killed as a direct result of wearing a cycling helmet, and precisely none who it can be reliably concluded died because they were not wearing a helmet. There's only one accident I've ever read about where I felt the helmet was highly likely to have saved someone a worse outcome, and that was a poor chap posting on here who had got chopped by an entry barrier which came down on his head! Very nasty, but thankfully not common.

Sorry, but given correct assumptions, I don't think the data supports your analysis!

Frank
 
C

Cyclezee

Guest
One Simple Question

Put quite simply, are you more or less likely to suffer an injury, fatal or otherwise if you wear or do not wear a helmet?

J:confused: hn
 

flecc

Member
Oct 25, 2006
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Put quite simply, are you more or less likely to suffer an injury, fatal or otherwise if you wear or do not wear a helmet?

J:confused: hn
More likely, but that can only be said with certainty of the least damaging accidents that cycle helmets are designed for. They do nothing useful in higher force impacts and in some cases can increase injury. (He says to the medical professional!)
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Fecn

Esteemed Pedelecer
Sep 28, 2008
491
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Put quite simply, are you more or less likely to suffer an injury, fatal or otherwise if you wear or do not wear a helmet?
Answer 1: It depends on whether the plans to allow the fashion police to carry truncheons get approved ;)

Answer 2: As long as you're out on your bike, your life expectancy increases whether you wear a helmet or not by virtue of the healthy exercise and fresh air you get when you're out on your bike. The increase in physical strength means you're less likely to be damaged by other accidents (e.g. falling down the stairs) elsewhere in your life.