|[Image from here.]
This is a post I've had on my to-do list for a while now, because every time the topic of bike helmets returns to haunt bike planning discussions like a zombie, I remember a fun rumor.
I went to graduate school at the University of Minnesota at the same time that internet celebrity Tay Zonday was there. You might remember Zonday from his super-viral youtube hit, Chocolate Rain, which netted him 15 minutes of fame. At the time, Zonday was studying something in the humanities, and the topic of Chocolate Rain came up at a grad student party I attended.
At the time, someone mentioned that Tay Zonday always wore a helmet while he was driving a car, and I remember thinking "Well, that really makes sense."
And it does. I've long thought that every argument about why bicyclists should wear helmets should also apply equally to car drivers, as car crashes are the cause of half of reported head injuries. I've wondered how our driving culture would change if, for example, everyone wore a helmet in the car.
Of course, nobody actually does this. Except Tay Zonday, that is...
And the other day on Twitter, Mr. Zonday, who is alive and well and doing voice and acting work in California, replied to me and explained his perspective on car helmets.
Yes, I did wear a bike helmet in my car for many years, until I got a car with side-impact air bags.
But side impact air bags only reduce fatalities by about half. People still die of head injuries. Even if the passenger compartment stays in-tact and head impacts are avoided, the kinetic forces absorbed by occupants can be fatal.
IIHS actually publishes the peak physical force (in Newtons) experienced by various dummy body parts in their tests.
Thanks Tay, for your very reasonable take on helmet use.