Hodge: Prevent brain injuries: Use your brain and wear a helmet

I am constantly surprised at how many people ride by my house looking marvellous—but unprotected from the unexpected.

A common sense caution warning to all summer visitors and a reminder to Kelowna residents—our pavement is just as tough as anyone else’s.

Tragedies come in all mediums and spectrums and none of us are immune from dealing with one.

However, like many other experiences or events in our lifetime, tragedies can be delayed or avoided by our own actions or inactions.

Yesterday’s news is a classic and ‘tragic’ example.

The brief news blurt about the death of the 11-year old Abbotsford lad barely garnered a comment in the ‘Big City’ news, not even fulfilling the long-rumoured 15 minutes of fame.

Sadly, it seems the Abbotsford lad fell from his long board (skateboard) and struck his head on the pavement and died shortly after. He was not wearing a helmet.

The true tragedy is not only the tender age of the accident victim but more so the fact that his demise was totally preventable had he simply put on his helmet.

The news clip did state: “Normally the youngster did wear head protection when boarding —yet for some unspecified reason was not doing so when the fall took place.”

It’s another version of a story we hear far too often; a few minutes of carelessness or lack of caution results in a life altering or life ending scenario.

It’s the kind of tragedy that leaves the victim’s survivors struggling to comprehend the loss, to understand the senselessness of it all, to grasp the harsh reality that the loss of the person never had to happen.

Kelowna, despite its lovely Lotus Land appeal and summer playground tag, is no more immune to such sorrow than Abbotsford or any other community across Canada.

Our sidewalks and roadways are no more forgiving from a harsh impact perspective than any other pavement in the country.

If you fall off your bike, skateboard or rollerblades and smack your head on the ground, it will not feel any better here than elsewhere.

With the delightful arrival of summer weather, the roads and walkways of our city become a beehive of activity.

Since many of the ‘beautiful’ people in Kelowna also happen to be physically active, that means a sudden massive increase in the use of wheeled travel such as bicycles and boards.

Unfortunately, with the increase of such modes of transportation comes an increase in the vanity of many of those operating their travel devices.

There is a bent, ego-inflated mindset in the Okanagan that one must make sure they look extra cool, hot, attractive, or funky while rolling down the road—and that equates to not wearing proper protective gear including helmets.

It is a disaster waiting to happen. And disasters happen.

My blessed life allows me to spend much of my time as a writer staring out a window at the world around me.

Like many, I am also a professional people watcher at heart and so I practice my staring out windows a great deal.

I am constantly surprised at how many people ride by my house, favourite restaurant or pub or park bench looking marvellous—but unprotected from the unexpected.

No one hops on a bike with the intention of crashing to the ground, colliding with another cyclist, car, or pedestrian, or bouncing off of a light pole.

If they did plan such an event it would be called a planned injury not an accident.

Yet for some reason residents or visitors to Kelowna seem extra confident that when cruising through K-Town they are immune to injury.

Of even greater logic-defiant concern is my observation that the large majority of folks I see riding their bikes without a helmet are adults, not youngsters.

It seems that many adults insist their child protect their noggin but for some reason believe their advanced age forms some dome of stupidity protection.

The ‘system complainer’ side of me wants to reach out and somehow blame the RCMP for not monitoring bike operators better.

That part of me wants to see officers spend their day writing up tickets for those without a helmet (or light, or bell, or brain).

It is so easy to deflect the responsibility and blame for such stupidity on anyone but the person who caused the concern to begin with.

It is time to dummy up, not dummy out.

If you or someone you care about rides a bike, skateboardscor rollerblades, then for goodness sake quit minding your business and say something.

Tell them you love them and want them around, healthy, for a long time. Tell them to drop the ridiculous ego that prevents them from putting on a helmet or protective padding.

Tell them you care and insist they look after themselves for your sake if not their own.

No one looks good with their head split open after losing a discussion with pavement.

In Abbotsford it will be a long and tragically sad summer for at least one family this year.

It will be a summer (and longer) spent wondering why and how.

It will be a summer spent mourning and wishing that time could be turned back, things done different, common sense to be used.

It is a tragedy that never had to be.

Don’t let such a waste of life be yours.


Kelowna Capital News