A bicycle helmet prevented me from experiencing a major head injury. But did it promote the very behavior that caused me to crash my bike?
It was autumn in Michigan, and I was riding my mountain bike along a lakeside pathway. I was heading towards a twisty boardwalk that led up to a bridge arching over a stream. Instead of slowing down, I accelerated through the twists and turns, enjoying the thrill of my maneuverings. Until…
Whisk! My wheels passed over a (predictable) patch of wet leaves, just as I was making a sharp turn. My body slammed violently into the boardwalk, the brunt of force absorbed by my left shoulder and the left side of my bike helmet. My body was scraped up, my neck was stiff for three weeks, my handlebars were ruined and my head…was fine. My helmet saved me from a potentially devastating head injury. Hurrah for bike helmets.
But would I have ridden so carelessly if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet?
Helmets change behavior. When we feel impervious to injury, we act in ways that increase our chance of bodily harm. Indeed, helmets can have powerful, unconscious effects on our behavior.
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