Helmet safety important heading into summer months

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With schools about to release their students for the summer and the upcoming warm months providing plenty of reason to enjoy the great outdoors, the Canada Safety Council would like to remind Canadians to wear a helmet when participating in open-air activities involving wheels. These include cycling, inline skating and skateboarding.

In 2011, Canada saw 52 cyclist fatalities according to Transport Canada, down from 62 the year before. Two-thirds of all fatal bicycle collisions involve the head and, while the most serious incidents have historically involved cyclists colliding with motor vehicles, these are not common — vehicular collisions are involved in less than 20 per cent of reported cycling injuries. Most injuries occur from falls or collisions with stationary objects, other cyclists or pedestrians.

Statistics are less readily available with regards to skateboarding and inline skating, but the risks are still self-evident when it comes to traveling at decent speeds with minimal protection.

In bicycle mishaps, first contact with the ground is usually made by the forehead after a fall, which makes wearing a bicycle helmet even more crucial to provide additional safety for your brain in a spill. The additional cushioning could even save your life. In fact, a 2012 study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that cyclists who do not wear a helmet are three times more likely to suffer fatal brain trauma than those who wear protective headgear.

A Canadian Standards Association (CSA) approved helmet offers multiple levels of protection, with the outer shell reducing friction and penetration while the inner foam spreads the impact out to reduce blunt trauma injury. These cycling helmets are invaluable when riding a bicycle or inline skates.

If you or your children are riding a skateboard, be sure all are wearing an appropriate skateboarding helmet. Since falls are more common with this activity, helmets are specifically designed to protect more of the back of the head. Unlike bicycle helmets, skateboard headgear is also designed to protect against multiple falls, whereas bicycle helmets should be replaced after a crash where the head is hit.

The best prevention for injury is safe manoeuvring, conscientious road use and well- maintained transportation. Although helmets can help mitigate injury in the event of a collision, the best course of action is always to manoeuver your skateboard, inline skates and bicycles safely to prevent a collision from happening in the first place. However, predicting the actions of other motorists can be very difficult and borderline impossible at times. Interaction with other motorists and road users makes helmet use a necessary part of the equation to keep you safe and protected.

Don’t be hard-headed; wear a helmet and it will make your sport on wheels much more enjoyable and safe.

Here are a few safety tips to keep you upright, safe and free of any impact to your head:

• Ride during the daytime and wear bright clothing. The important thing is to see and be seen at all times. Make sure other road users know you’re there.

• Follow the rules of the road. Cyclists, skateboarders and inline skaters have the same responsibilities and rights as other road users and following them is the safest way to ride.

• Predictability is essential. Leave no doubt in a driver’s mind as to what you’re about to do. Ride in a straight line, signal your intentions and check before making any turns or coming to a stop.

• Make sure your skateboard, bicycle or skates are in good condition. Do preventative maintenance to make sure all nuts and bolts are tightened, wheels are filled with air if necessary and there are no visible safety concerns.

Organizations: Canada Safety Council, Transport Canada, Canadian Standards Association Canadian Medical Association Journal

Geographic location: Canada

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