EDITORIAL: Lessons learned, then forgotten

Wearing helmets while partaking in activities such as bike riding and skateboarding can save lives.

There was a time when not wearing a helmet while cycling or skateboarding was the norm.

Not so many years ago, that ‘norm’ became the exception, as injuries and deaths of those partaking in the activities were connected to the distinct lack of head protection.

The tragic death in 2001 of well-known local skateboarder ‘Major’ Dave Bowers was attributed in large part to the lack of a helmet. Bowers died of complications arising from a snowboarding accident on Seymour Mountain, in which he fell backwards and hit his head.

Matt Elder is another name locals residents will likely recall with sadness. The Southridge School honour student died in 2002, hours after striking the back of his head on the pavement while skateboarding near his South Surrey home. The 13-year-old was also not wearing a helmet.

In an effort to both keep Elder’s memory alive and prevent similar tragedies, a campaign was launched aimed at inspiring young ‘boarders and cyclists to don helmets every time they are out enjoying their sport.

Friends of the teen said at the time that helmet-wearing did increase in the wake of Elder’s death – a glimmer of hope that the painful lesson had been learned. Looking around today, however, it appears many have forgotten that lesson.

Young and old can be seen daily enjoying their sport care- and helmet-free.

In the case of the particularly young, there’s no question responsibility rests on the parents. It’s an offence under the Motor Vehicle Act to permit a person under age 16 to operate or ride as a passenger without a helmet. And yet, it’s not uncommon to see parents cycle helmet-free with their children – reinforcing the potentially deadly standard as acceptable.

Older riders, simply put, should know better.

Of course, there are those who argue helmets aren’t needed; that they deter people from enjoyable outdoor activities. It is a weak argument. Even the mildest of head injuries can be life-changing.

It would appear a wake-up call may be needed to remind people of what they stand to lose should that fateful fall they never expected happen to them or someone they love. Who, after all, sets out planning to sustain a life-threatening injury?

Perhaps a gentle reminder is enough, with hope that it doesn’t take another tragedy – another needless death or injury – to get people to once again use their heads.