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On helmets and safety

On helmets and safetyThe tragic death of Natasha Richardson on the ski slopes has sparked a debate on whether wearing helmets should be mandatory while skiing.

Winter sports is a big thing here in Switzerland where we are currently living. Everybody skis, well, almost everybody, and I am one of the very few who can’t or don’t. Swiss kids start learning how to ski as early as two years old. Every February, there is a two-week school break called the “sports break”, referring to winter sports, of course. My neighbor confided to me last week that her two boys aged 14 and 17 have never been to the seaside as they spend all their vacation money during the winter holidays. Yet, even this country so crazy about winter sports doesn’t make helmet use compulsory.

Every year, hundreds of people in the skiing slopes of the European Alps get injured or even die. Earlier this year, another woman and mother of about Natasha’s age died in Austria after colliding against the prominent German politician Dieter Althaus. The politician has been charged with manslaughter and awaits trial. He was wearing a helmet during the collision. She wasn’t. All over Switzerland, there are posters reminding people to “Watch your speed” on the slopes. Yet, helmets are not obligatory here.

I really can’t understand about people’s aversion to wearing helmets, be it while riding a bicycle or skiing. Some say it’s bothersome, some say it’s uncomfortable. Maybe some people just didn’t learn to wear helmets as a child.

But we have helmets now and they are affordable and medical science has proven time and time again that helmets can prevent head injuries and save lives. Motorcycle helmets are mandatory almost everywhere; so are bicycle helmets in many countries. So why not skiing helmets? And what can we do to make sure that our kids grow up to be safety-conscious?

Start ’em early.

    My twin boys got their first helmets the minute they sat on their first trike at 18 months. For some people, this was perhaps overcautious because how fast can they really go on a trike. For me, it’s all about association and getting used to. I wanted my kids to get used to wearing helmets early in life. Unlike my childhood, their childhood is full of opportunities to learn wonderful sports like in line skating, skateboarding, skiing, among others. However, these sports can also be potentially dangerous. Apparently, many people think so. This year, the ski rentals for my boys included helmets as well.

Explain what helmets are for.

    Kids should know why helmets are necessary. It’s not about making a fashion statement. It’s not because everybody is wearing them. It’s not about being cool. Helmets are worn for a good reason and kids should know just how important they are.

Set a good example.

    I always wear a helmet while cycling. Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t be it while cycling or skiing. He is normally particular about safety and he knows how important helmets are, especially for kids

. But not for him. Maybe it’ simply difficult to teach old dogs new tricks. I’d rather concentrate my energy on my little boys instead.

Currently, there is a big discussion going on whether a helmet could have saved Natasha’s life or not. Maybe we’ll never know. What I know for sure is it’s better to err on the side of caution. Especially with my kids.

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