Save your children’s lives, save your life, wear a helmet
Since I moved to Utah over a decade ago, I have lived mainly in two houses, both of which were built along Manti’s ATV route.
Throughout the entire year, it has become a common occurrence to see young children, sometimes two or three deep, hanging onto a dirt bike or ATV as they speed down the street without a helmet on.
I would never presume to tell someone how to raise their child, but I am imploring parents of children of all ages to strongly encourage their kids to wear protective gear, most specifically a helmet.
I realize nobody likes wearing a helmet when they ride. They can be hot and uncomfortable when not sized and adjusted correctly.
The case I am making for kids (and adults) to wear a helmet is supported entirely on a single fact: I would be dead if I hadn’t.
My dad brought home a little black minibike when I was very young, much to my mother’s chagrin. My mom was adamant that I wear the helmet.
I hated wearing that helmet but the first time I crashed I went down hard. The bike sustained enough damage to be put out of commission, but I got back up and shook it off. It wouldn’t be my last motorcycle, or my last crash.
Fast forward to an 18-year old me. I stood in my driveway, admiring my recently-purchased 750cc sport bike. A slew of two wheelers and quads had come before it, but this was my first man-sized motorcycle.
I was contemplating a ride when my neighbor from across the way waved from his garage door, saying, “I have something I want to show you.”
I crossed the street, and as I approached, I realized he was covered in bandages and leaned on a single crutch. He told me he’d been laid up in bed recovering for days. When I asked from what he was recovering, he gestured towards a twisted pile of aluminum and plastic in the corner.
The mangled pile was a bike not much different from the one I had parked right across the street.
“I guess I was in someone’s blind spot,” he told me. “They turned me into a concrete crayon in a split second. Today is the first day I have been able to stand. My doctor told me I would be dead if I hadn’t been following the helmet laws.”
As I walked back to my new bike, I told myself I would ride smart and never put myself in that position, but like John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
A few more years and a handful of close calls passed. Every time I got myself out of a sticky situation on the road or trail, I became a little more confident.
The year before I made my transplant to Utah, I decided to take my new dirt bike for a ride. It was small and as light as a feather compared to my sport bike. I spent the day playing in the mud and sand of a large construction site.
As I pulled away from the site, I looked both ways and began to cross the road to where my pickup was, so I could load up the bike and go home. Halfway across the road, a big, lifted truck appeared out of thin air, barreling down upon me.
Stars flashed in my eyes as my helmet-covered head struck the truck’s front bumper. I came to on the side of the road. My bike was in pieces. I was missing some skin and my clothes were bloodied. I had a pain in my neck like a dagger was buried in my spine.
The truck that had hit me was nowhere to be seen. Like the young fool I was, I went home instead of to the hospital. I nursed my wounds and limped around until the pain was mostly gone.
As the months went by, I began experiencing involuntary spasms and tics. I developed a severe anxiety disorder that made the tics come on even stronger.
I eventually went to a doctor. He seemed confused by the sudden onset of my condition until I confessed to him about my literal run-in with the truck.
The doctor told me my symptoms were almost surely caused by the spinal trauma from the accident. I went home with anxiety medicine and the doctor’s confirmation that I was only alive because I was wearing my helmet.
I have learned to deal with the long term effects of my motorcycle crash. I have even had other crashes since then, but when I head out for a ride on something with two wheels, I feel grateful, not bitter, to strap on my helmet.
It’s hard to beat a dirt bike or a fast four-wheeler for good wholesome fun, but if you want to feel confident that your kids are coming home whole from a ride, peace of mind can be had for the price of a comfortable, well-fitted helmet.