I guess it was inevitable that the Big Ben accident would bring out the standard bad arguments, but I was really disappointed to see the typical closed-mindedness coming from Kevin Vranes, who does great work on environmental issues and should know better. His experience with corporations trying to deny their environmental impact should have taught him that any statistics found in corporate press reports are mercilessly twisted to suit the bottom lines of those corporations, yet he creduously quotes from the old discredited Hurt report.
Most of the stats follow common sense and aren’t worth disputing, but I’d like someone to come up with a way that accident statistics could possibly support this: “Safety helmet use caused no attenuation of critical traffic sounds, no limitation of precrash visual field, and no fatigue or loss of attention; no element of accident causation was related to helmet use.” Beyond the common sense that says putting something over your ears obviously reduces hearing, accidents avoided because riders are aware of their environment are accidents that don’t show up in the stats.
But even if some of those stats are reported straight with no massaging, the basic message of the post is that the risk-reward calculation involved in riding without a helmet makes it a “ludicrous” decision. This is just a failure of imagination on Kevin’s part.
GB got it exactly right in Kevin’s comments:
The problem with your analysis is that clearly you could avoid even more injuries by simply not riding motorcycles at all. Yet you do ride them, presumably because you find the fun of it to be worth the risk of injuring or killing yourself in a crash (which can happen even with a helmet).
Roethlisberger found the wind-in-his-hair feeling of riding helmetless to be worth the risk of smashing his face. I personally agree with you that helmets are the way to go, but isn’t this really a case of “an alcoholic is someone who drinks more than I do”?
No matter what safety equipment you use, a motorcycle is far more dangerous than being surrounded in a metal cage. If you’ve ever taken a curve fast enough to get your knee close to the ground, if you’ve ever ridden in the rain or at night, if you ever ride in anything less than full armor including a neck brace, girdle, and shoulder, elbow, and kneepads, then you are just as guilty of making an irrationally unsafe decision and the difference is only one of degree. Something about the thrill of the ride outweighs the danger or you would stay in the safety of a car.
Kevin himself said, “In the end, you make your own risk-reward calculation.” But somehow he forgot that some people weigh the rewards more strongly. If the feeling of the wind in your face is what makes you feel alive, there is nothing “ludicrous” about risking your safety to get that feeling. Like so many other decisions, no one is better able to make that calculation than the individual. If Roethlisberger believes it was worth it, then it was worth it.
(via Tokyo Tom in comments at Riding Sun)