The Des Moines Register published an editorial titled, “ Cradle your cranium: Wear a helmet while biking” just two weeks following a fatal bike-car crash where the police report the driver nearly three times the blood alcohol limit for driving. The driver had a previous OWI conviction and was driving while barred.
This editorial comes a too early following the tragedy and stings many people who love riding bicycles. The victim had a helmet on and still died from head injuries.
Maybe the legislature could pass a law to prohibit people in cars from running over bicyclists. I’m not saying that I am against helmets. I am saying that helmets don’t prevent crashes. Helmets are useful when the crash occurs, but we need to focus on steps that led to the crash occuring.
The injury solution raised in the editorial is too narrow. Iowa needs solutions to prevent crashes in the first place. This means prohibiting unsafe driving including drunk driving, distracted driving, and dangerous driving. This means creating harsher deterrents for speeding.
Law enforcement should be involved in the solution to prevent injuries and fatalities to people who ride bicycles. The City of San Francisco launched an effort to eliminate traffic deaths by the year 2024. In doing so, San Francisco Police are targeting 50% of traffic citations to top five violations that cause the most deaths and injuries on the streets. This seems like a sensible and measurable solution.
Finally, we need to build our streets with safety for all users as a priority. There are studies showing implementation of bike lanes and road diets reduce crashes and increase traffic safety. Green lanes and protected bike lanes have provided a cushion of safety for vulnerable users of the roadway.
Let’s start the solutions before the crash occurs. Iowa needs to get aggressive with bad driving behaviors. Law enforcement and engineering can play a big role to improve safety. Before we pass laws on crash helmets, let’s look at the bigger picture of traffic safety.