How wearing a helmet just saved my life! 

Plus, a couple of lessons learnt. 

Hello everybody! Welcome to my blog. 

With the seemingly endless lockdown continuing, many people have recently bought new bicycles or dusted off older ones sitting at the back of the garage. With not much to do, I think it’s great that people are getting on their bikes and doing some outdoor exercise. However, I want to make sure it’s well understood that we must always wear our helmet and wear it properly.

Earlier this week, I got hit by a car while I was on my bicycle. Our beloveds will always tell us to “be careful” when we ride our bike, and we can be careful, but there’s nothing we can do about other people’s behaviour on the road. Even though I was doing the right thing and I was being careful, I was unfortunate enough to encounter one of those people. In this sense, I want to dispel the myth from some ‘Expert cyclists’ who proclaim that they don’t need a helmet because they do. Not everything is under your control.

As I rode through a roundabout, only 2 minutes from my house, the driver of the car did not take the time or patience to slow down as she approached the roundabout and hit me from the side as she entered. I fell to the ground and suffered a minor concussion, some grazing and some impact wounds and I have to say I feel extremely lucky under the circumstances. It could have been a lot worse. My bike was obviously quite damaged but at the time that was the least of my worries. 

The lady that hit me did not stop until two nice people came to help and made her stop, but this post is not about the morality involved in this kind of situation, the behaviour you would expect from someone that hits you with a car, the fact that we must stop no matter what. I want to tell you how wearing a helmet could be the reason why I could stand on my feet and get to a safer place. 

In Australia, if the police see you not wearing a helmet properly fastened, you’ll get a fine. In many countries, wearing a helmet is only mandatory for motorbikes, whereas in other countries there are no rules about wearing a helmet at all. 

Using data for the period 1989-2018, in total more than 49,000 people died on the road in Australia. Cyclist deaths represent 2.64% of this figure. This equals out to be more than 40 cyclist deaths on the road per year.

You can find all these numbers on the following website:

https://www.whistleout.com.au/PayTV/Guides/Australias-cycling-safety-statistics

In Spain in 2019, 80 cyclists lost their lives in traffic accidents. In Spain, according to the DGT (The Directorate-General for Traffic) it’s not mandatory for people over 16 to wear a helmet in the city, it’s just recommended. 

A very similar law applies in Colombia, where 433 people died on the road while riding a bicycle in 2020.

Going back to Australia, the data from 2010 to 2018 also show that 23% of the cyclists who died on the road were not wearing a helmet. But death is not the only possible outcome from not wearing a helmet. Bike accidents without helmets are more likely to result in brain trauma, and this includes those helmets that are not properly fastened.

Looking at different resources from Spain, US, and Australia, on average, wearing a helmet reduces the risk of death by 40% and the risk of brain injury by 60-70% or more depending on the country. 

In my case, I strongly believe that thanks to my helmet I wasn’t gravely injured. I probably wouldn’t have died because of the speed of both the car and my bike, but I would have had more serious trouble for sure. My neck and back are still sore after 4 days because of the impact, and the doctor said that the pain won’t go away completely until after a week or so. Imagine what could have been without my helmet!

The second thing I would like to share with you is a couple of lessons that I have personally learnt from this incident: 

  1. Get absolutely all the details from the person.

Don’t expect people to be always nice and sympathetic. I was very lucky to have other people helping me, but I was very unlucky to be hit by someone that was not so nice. Trust me, a name and a phone number are not enough information. Get the number plate or ask someone to get if for you, ask for the registration or the car insurance details. Take a quick video with your phone, explaining what happened and where. It might sound obvious, but when you are in the situation, the only thing you want to do is call your partner or anyone you trust and go to the hospital to get checked. 

2. If the person doesn’t want to collaborate, report it to the police.

We all have bad days, and unfortunately, accidents happen, but we need to take responsibility. When someone is not willing to help, it’s an offence, and that person needs to be reported. If they have done it to you, they will do it to someone else.

3. If you are the one that has hit someone, stop and help.

Someone is hurt, and all you need to do is to stop and help. It might not be your fault, you might be in a rush, whatever reason you may have to run away from the situation, you go from taking part in an accident to becoming a criminal. Legal stuff will come later, but first you need to make sure that the person or persons are well and out of danger. This might also sound obvious, but it certainly wasn’t so obvious for the lady that hit me, so don’t take anything for granted. Legally, if you stop, help, and give all your details, you won’t be in trouble because you did the right thing. Of course, it’s a different situation if the incident involves drugs or alcohol, but surely running away is the worst thing you can do as a human being. 

4. If you witness an accident, stop and help.

Another obvious thing to do, but just two people from one car came to help me when I had the accident, and I saw more than two cars in the area. Apart from the fact that you can help the victims to stay away from danger, stop the traffic if needed, provide first aid to them, and calm them down (which probably is what personally I needed the most), you can help reinforce their statement to the police in case the person that caused the accident is not willing to help.

I hope this post made you think a little bit more about this very important topic. See you next week!

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