What Good Are Helmets?

Reading this story about how motorcycle deaths in Florida have shot up 67 percent since Governor Jeb Bush, in his wisdom, repealed the requirement that bikers ...
by | June 19, 2006

Helmet Reading this story about how motorcycle deaths in Florida have shot up 67 percent since Governor Jeb Bush, in his wisdom, repealed the requirement that bikers wear helmets reminded me of a rather mordant conversation I had about 15 years ago, when I was working at San Francisco General Hospital.

A nurse I knew said she was opposed to the helmet-mandate laws that were coming into vogue. Bikers without helmets died, she said, freeing up vital and much-needed organs for others. Bikers with helmets just became horribly injured, keeping their organs but experiencing terrible ongoing trauma.

Would she be pleased to know that, according to a Florida Today analysis, deaths of unhelmeted cyclists rose from 22 in 1998 and 1999, the year before Bush's repeal, to 250 in 2004?

Maybe so. Here's what ER doctor David Harbour told the paper:

"We used to call (helmetless riders) 'organ donors,' because they break their head and not their body. You can actually fix a broken bone. But if you hit your head and hurt your brain, there's little we can do to fix that."