Posts Tagged ‘fearmongering’

Ski Helmet Bill Veteod

Governor Brown has vetoed the Ski Helmet bill. In his veto message, the Governor states:

While I appreciate the value of wearing a ski helmet, I am concerned about the continuing and seemingly inexorable transfer of authority from parents to the state. Not every human problem deserves a law.

Predictably, supporters shot back:

Brown “chose to ignore the scientific evidence (and) the ski industry’s support.”

In fact, the scientific data casts doubt on the effectiveness of ski helmets.

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Think of the Children

We live 3 blocks from the hospital where my son was born. Under hospital policy, walking our newborn home was too deemed dangerous and so we were required to drive him home in a car instead.

And if you think that is crazy, consider that many States do not permit parents to bring toddlers on bicycles either. Because, you know, cars and SUVs are sooo much safer.

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More Helmet Fearmongering

Fresh from incurring the wrath of the bicycle community, California State Senator Leland Yee is now setting his sights on the ski community:

SB 880, as introduced, Yee. Public safety: snow sport helmets.

Existing law requires a person under 18 years of age to wear a
properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet while operating a bicycle
or riding upon a bicycle as a passenger upon the streets or any
other public bicycle path.

This bill would require a person under 18 years of age to wear a
properly fitted and fastened snow sport helmet while operating snow skies or a snowboard, or while riding upon a seat or other device that is attached to the snow skies or a snowboard. The bill would provide for fines to be imposed for violations of this prohibition.

What is the actual cost/benefit here?

On average, 39.8 persons have died skiing/snowboarding each year. To put in perspective, more Americans are killed by lightning strikes.

The comparison with bike helmets is apt. Ski helmets have similar design limitations as bike helmets. The standards only test for collision speeds less than 12mph, whereas most head fatalities occur at speeds considerably higher. Thus, even increasing use of helmets on the slopes will not have the effect that helmet promoters claim:

In the 1998/99 part of the study, Shealy and colleagues followed the deaths as they happened and found that, where the information was available, 35% of individuals who died were wearing a helmet. This is much higher than the rate of helmet use amongst the general population on the piste. Two of the deaths amongst snowboarders resulted from them being struck by young skiers wearing helmets who had jumped without being able to see where they would land.

Shealy et al conclude “…the findings are not particularly supportive of the notion that wearing helmets will significantly reduce the number of fatalities in winter snow sports”. This was supported by a presentation at the last ISSS meeting by the Chief Medical Examiner for the state of Vermont, USA – Dr Paul L. Morrow. Dr Morrow was of the opinion that of 54 deaths at commercial ski areas in Vermont from 1979/80 to 1997/98, helmets would not have been of any particular value in saving any of the lives lost – as the degree of trauma simply overwhelmed any benefits that the helmet might convey in an impact. To quote Shealy et al again – a team of highly respected ski injury researchers – “On the basis of results to date, there is no clear evidence that helmets have been shown to be an effective means of reducing fatalities in alpine sports”.

Its a sobering fact that more than half of the people involved in fatal accidents last season at ski areas in the USA were wearing helmets at the time of the incident (Source – NSAA). As Shealy states “[E]ven though the prevalence of helmet utilization is rising by 4 to 5 percent per year in the U.S., there has been no statistically significant observable effect on the incident of fatality.”

In another recent scientific publication, Shealy and his colleagues found that the most common primary injury in ski and snowboarding fatalities is some sort of head injury – approximately 60 percent of ski fatalities involve a head injury. However, it is critical to place this into its proper context. “While some sort of head injury is usually the first listed cause of death, most of the fatalities also involve multiple, or secondary trauma sites; single causes of death are not common.” Most fatalities appear to occur under circumstances that are likely to exceed the protective capacity of current helmets designed for recreational snow sports. (Source – “Do Helmets Reduce Fatalities or merely Alter the Patterns of Death?” Shealy, J., Johnson, R., and Ettlinger, C., 2008)

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The fearmongers are now going after that very British tradition: biscuits and tea!

An estimated 25 million adults have been injured while eating during a tea or coffee break – with at least 500 landing themselves in hospital, the survey revealed.

The custard cream biscuit was found to be the worse offender to innocent drinkers.

It beat the cookie to top a table of 15 generic types of biscuits whose potential dangers were calculated by The Biscuit Injury Threat Evaluation.

Hidden dangers included flying fragments and being hurt while dunking in scalding tea through to the more strange such as people poking themselves in the eye with a biscuit or fallen off a chair reaching for the tin.

The report quantifies the risk with following equation:

Biscuit Threat Injury Evaluation B.I.T.E. =
6PDKWST (1 – δ S CAP) + 9.9 ε S TB + 40FMX[1-ν 0.1NCH] + 1000 μ L + 400 [ α E NR + β E LR + ρ N CH]

No, the study has not been peer-reviewed, and yes, it is mostly likely a joke.

But will that prevent the politicians from requiring warning labels, or even mandatory helmet law for biscuit-eating minors?

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On billboards, buses, and bus stops, Californians have been inundated with fear-mongering advertisements, like the one shown below. They come from the First-Five which collects 50-cent per pack of cigarettes to fund various child welfare programs.
Children wearing bike helmets are featured prominently in the billboards. Rather than promote cycling as a healthy activity for youngsters, the image gives negative portrayal of bikes. Surely any activity that involves crash helmets can’t be good for kids, right? Of course, the statistics say otherwise. Helmets are now known to be completely worthless as crash protection, and their widespread promotion are attributed with decline in popularity of cycling.

Compare California’s public service advertisement with those found in Holland — where bicycling is heavily promoted as fun, healthful activity. No helmets are ever seen on posters or TV advertisements. Indeed, Dutch planners actively discourage the promotion of bike helmets as a safety measure.

By far, the greatest risk to kids isn’t drowning, walking to school, or riding bikes (as implied by the posters), but childhood obesity. Traffic engineering and suburban development have shrunk the environment available to kids. As a result, incidence of childhood diabetes and heart disease have exploded in the US largely due to kids’ sedentary behavior — and fears parents have about allowing their kids out of the house to ride bikes.

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