Helmets key to bicycle safety
This week’s fatal bicycle accident in Vineyard Haven illustrates why helmets are so important to bicycle safety, Tisbury police said this week.
Theodore Saulnier, Tisbury police chief, said, “I hope that people can take this accident and realize that wearing a helmet is absolutely necessary. You don’t have to have that bad of a fall to have serious injuries.”
Chief Saulnier also stressed the importance of road safety and awareness while biking.
“Bicyclists need to exercise care with other cyclists and with motorists. It is essential to being safe,” he said.
Local bicycle shop owners said the importance of awareness and proper safety equipment cannot be overestimated.
“There is no way around the importance of wearing a helmet. The traffic on the Island is by no means decreasing and neither is the bike traffic. Helmets are essential,” said Brad Suhr, manager of Edgartown Bicycles.
Mr. Suhr said helmets must be properly fitted and adjusted to be effective. He said if there is any question on how to properly fit a helmet, take it to a local bike shop for help.
A helmet can cost as little as $20 and as much as $200 for a replica of five-time Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong’s, helmet. Both are equally protective in an accident. As you pay more money you generally get better ventilation, lighter weight, and fancier graphics, but helmets that meet federal guidelines are equally protective in a crash.
“No matter what you pay, it’s a very, very small investment to make when you’re talking about life-altering or life-threatening injuries,” said John Stevenson, owner of Cycleworks in Vineyard Haven.
According to statistical data compiled by Dr. Alan Hirshberg, director of the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital emergency room, bicycle accidents outnumbered accidents on both mopeds and motorcycles for the fourth year in a row last year.
There were 134 bicycle accidents, 27 moped accidents, and 11 motorcycle accidents which resulted in treatment in the hospital ER in 2003.
Dr. Hirshberg said that the most serious bicycle injuries were sustained by people not wearing helmets. “Unfortunately, these really bad head injuries are on folks not wearing helmets. And we’re talking about life-altering injuries when you have a bad head trauma,” said Dr. Hirshberg.
According to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), bicycle helmets are 85 to 88 percent effective in preventing head injuries. However, only 20 to 25 percent of all bicyclists wear helmets.