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The type of injuries this guy unfortunately had to suffer are of JUST the sort that we see, at least anecdotally, that often KILL riders who are helmeted. Nobody ever seems to make the connection right there -- that in certain types of COMMON impacts, it's being WITHOUT a helmet that can save your life. Why not focus the research on THAT instead, and find out WHY these people DO survive bad bike wrecks?
I can think of several motorcycle accident cases we've handled through my office, where the rider was wearing a "beanie" style helmet (which amounts to nearly no helmet at all), and where the rider suffered very serious facial AND NECK injuries: IN those cases, It would not have taken a great deal MORE force to have BROKEN the rider's neck altogether. We believe, in those cases, that the rider PROBABLY would have died or been severely paralyzed, but for the fact that they were wearing beanies, instead of heavier, full-face helmets. Yes, their FACES would have been protected and not required surgical repair, but there would have been that much MORE FORCE diverted directly against the rider's neck. The facial bones aren't absorbing any of the energy with a full-face, and these "regulation" helmets absorb very little force at impacts over 13 - 15 mph, so it's not an irrational conclusion.
So, IF indeed one is faced with a theoretical choice on this -- to EITHER suffer horrible facial injuries and survive by wearing a beanie or by wearing NO helmet at all; OR, to chance it that you'll AVOID facial injuries with a full-face helmet, but live with a significantly INCREASED risk of having a paralyzing or deadly neck injury -- in fairness, SHOULDN'T you be able to choose? Granted, these are not a very nice pair of outcomes to choose from, and there are certainly other outcomes possible as well, but: ASSUME for a moment that these probabilities or possibilities of injury DUE TO a large, full-face helmet DO work out to being MUCH MORE SIGNIFICANT RISKS than previously thought, I say THAT'S ENUF to trash the helmet laws!
Sounds pretty fundamental, but again, just based on my very UNscientific observations over the years, I wonder... Seems like a fertile area for exploration, if nothing else. There ARE some studies to back some of this, as I recall. I know of one that might be helpful: I'd seen this one reprinted from an NCOM Convention some years ago -- it was Australian, and it pointed to a pattern of deaths from impacts to the chinbar, because the rider's jaw was so well PROTECTED by the helmet, it could be driven intact straight up into the rider's BRAIN, killing the rider, as you might expect. The other studies I know of that were helpful, have not been focused on the problems CAUSED BY helmets, full-face or otherwise, but you never know, might be worth picking through all of 'em for anything in this direction. I believe another study was from the University of North Carolina. I don't have details any longer, but the info is out there.
Point is, seems like something to look into in more detail. IN CONVERSATIONS I've had with big helmet advocates who know little about bikes, I've noticed that this argument WILL sometimes get to them: That motorcycle helmets -- Freedom of Choice issues aside -- do NOT act with the consistent performance and safety of modern seat belt systems; AND, most of all, that unlike (to my knowledge) seat and shoulder belts, where you might expect that the instances where one might be significantly WORSE off are statistically infinitesimal, you can COMPARE that to data which I believe is out there, that would show a MUCH WORSE picture with helmets, or at least with FULL-FACE helmets.
So, one way to do this: You'd add up all the deaths that come when helmets ARE worn and there ARE head or neck injuries actually CAUSING the death -- ie, where the rider is WORSE OFF for wearing a full-face helmet -- and COMPARE THE PERCENTAGES as against the proportion of people who die analogously in cars. I guess that would be from seatbelts or shoulder harnesses, where the belts actually CAUSE the death (even including people who drown because they can't unbuckle their belts -- which is exceedingly rare -- if adding it in makes sense). In THIS COMPARISON, I think we'd see something closer to 60-40 chances, in favor of full-face helmet use that reasonably might have avoided the head injury cases, compared with what I admit I'm GUESSING is probably a 99++% chance that with your belts, you wouldn't be any worse off.
Finally, as someone else mentioned again recently, there's always the basic argument of "If you wanna prevent head injuries so badly, why don't you make CAR DRIVERS WEAR HELMETS? You'd SAVE a hell of a lot of head injuries in the big car crashes, at least to the extent they work. Why dost thou find that silly? Oh -- so the very NOTION seems ludicrous to you, doesn't it, Mr. or Ms. car-driving helmet advocate? NOW YOU GET IT! THAT'S WHY so MANY BIKERS don't want to wear them, either! Or, at least, would like some say-so as to WHEN and WHERE we might want to wear a helmet!
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