Cyclist in road crash: my helmet saved my life

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Chris Luff holidng the helmet that saved his life after being hit by a car when cycling up Barkham Hill - Photo: Emma Sheppard

“I WOULD have died instantly without my helmet,” said a cyclist hit by a car last week.
Chris Luff, who lives in Arborfield, sustained life-threatening injuries in the accident which took place last Wednesday.

He said he had been cycling along Barkham Road when he was hit behind by a car, forcing him off the bike and breaking his leg.

Chris Luff was taken to hospital with serious injuries - they would have been worse without his bike helmet. Picture from Chris Luff
Chris Luff was taken to hospital with serious injuries – they would have been worse without his bike helmet. Picture from Chris Luff

Speaking to The Wokingham Paper, the 48-year-old, said that his helmet had been extensively damaged and police at the scene said that he would not have survived the crash if he hadn’t been wearing it.

Now, he wants to spread the word about how important bike helmets are.
The accident took place on the evening of Wednesday, May 4, causing Mr Luff serious injuries.

He said: “There was an enormous impact, I’ve never known anything like it in my life. I was separated from my bike and landed with my foot the wrong way round.
“There was searing pain in every part of my body.

“I knew I was in a bad way.”

The ambulance arrived within 10 minutes and treated Mr Luff’s cracked ankle. He also had broken teeth, heavy bruising and cracked ribs.

He is expected to be in a leg cast for nine weeks, making work very difficult.

Chris Luff's bike was badly damaged in the accident. Picture supplied by Chris Luff
Chris Luff’s bike was badly damaged in the accident. Picture supplied by Chris Luff

“There’s a lot of bolts and screws in there,” he said of his leg cast. “I also have to inject myself every day with Tinzaparin which is to prevent blood clots from the trauma and open wounds.”

Although the cause of the accident is not known, it is thought that the driver of the car was doing around 40mph. She was uninjured but in a state of shock at the scene.

Police on the scene told Mr Luff that it was that it is “virtually impossible” for cyclists to survive in an accident of this nature.

The keen cyclist added that he bears no malice to the driver, adding: “She was mortified and in a bit of a state, but it was an accident and the insurance will sort it out.”

Chris Luff survives a road accident after being hit by a car when cycling up Barkham Hill - Photo: Emma Sheppard
Chris Luff survives a road accident after being hit by a car when cycling up Barkham Hill – Photo: Emma Sheppard

Now Mr Luff is keen to get the message out there that bike helmets save lives.

“For me, it’s second nature to wear as much safety equipment as I can,” he said. “My head was hit very hard – it took a real whack, but it’s OK. I would have died instantly without a helmet.

“I want to make sure that people have the conversation with their children about wearing helmets.

“If a child comes off their bike and bangs their head it could change their personality and affect the whole family.

“If we can get a parent to get their child to wear a helmet, that’s a good thing.”

Chris Luff sustained heavy bruising in the accident. He does not bear any malice to the driver of the car. Picture supplied by Chris Luff
Chris Luff sustained heavy bruising in the accident. He does not bear any malice to the driver of the car. Picture supplied by Chris Luff

Mr Luff also wants parents to get into the habit of wearing a cycle helmet themselves.

“I’ve got on a bit of a soapbox about it. What if a Dad doesn’t wear a helmet and has an accident himself? What if the injuries happen to him?”

Local charity Headway Thames Valley works with people who have brain injuries and also want to encourage cyclists to always ride with a helmet.

Jamie Higgins, spokesperson for the charity, said: “Cycling is such a great way to keep fit and also a good mode of transport. At Headway Thames Valley, we promote safe cycling, while supporting calls to make it safer for people of all ages to get on their bikes.

“Brain injury can happen at any moment – all it takes is just one fall and you will regret it for the rest of your life.

“At Headway Thames Valley we often use the statement, ‘Use your head – use a helmet’

Another picture showing the damage to Chris Luff's bike
Another picture showing the damage to Chris Luff’s bike

“Sustaining a life changing brain injury as the result of a cycling accident is not uncommon. Indeed, several of our clients at Headway Thames Valley have been referred to the charity following such an accident. In some cases, the client has been wearing a helmet and the consequences of their accident could have been much more severe, whilst other clients haven’t been wearing helmets and perhaps wouldn’t have ever needed our support if they were.”

For more on Headway Thames Valley’s work, log on to www.headwaythamesvalley.org.uk or call 01491 411469.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Hang on a moment, an adult in control of over a tonne of fast moving metal rammed a bloke on a bike from behind and you are are wittering on about polystyrene hats? Get real! Segregated space for children and adults cycling on busy roads is needed.

  2. While we can all be grateful that Mr Luff is recovering, I have seldom read an article more misinformed or with more unjustified assumptions than this.

    “I would have died instantly without my helmet,” How does he know? Unless he repeats the collision in exactly the same way without a helmet and is instantly killed, this statement is at best, an unproven assumption.

    “Police on the scene told Mr Luff that it was that it is “virtually impossible” for cyclists to survive in an accident of this nature.” This is patently not true, and while a cyclist will almost always be seriously injured in collisions involving motor vehicles at 40mph, they often survive. Cycle helmets are tested to provide protection at about 10mph, and as the speed of the collision increases, the protection falls rapidly, and at 40mph, the protection is effectively zero, as impact energy increases with the square of the speed.

    “I want to make sure that people have the conversation with their children about wearing helmets. If a child comes off their bike and bangs their head it could change their personality and affect the whole family.”

    Perhaps Mr Luff isn’t quite as informed about cycle helmets as he thinks. Children have been strangled by their helmet straps but there is no proven case of a helmet saving a life, so going by the evidence, any responsible parent would ban their child from wearing a helmet.

    James Higgins from Headway said “Brain injury can happen at any moment – all it takes is just one fall and you will regret it for the rest of your life.” Which is clearly true, if highly unlikely. However, such injuries are extremely rare for cyclists, and are more common for car occupants in collisions. Cycling has about the same risk per mile travelled as walking, but Headway focus solely on cyclists, ignoring higher risk groups. Why?

    He goes on to say “Sustaining a life changing brain injury as the result of a cycling accident is not uncommon.” That is not true. Such injuries to cyclists are extremely rare, and about the same risk for pedestrians, so why aren’t Headway promoting walking helmets?

    Much of the accepted wisdom about cycle helmets is based on “helmet saved my life” articles like this, when the facts are very different. Nowhere with a massive rise in helmet wearing, whether due to a law or propaganda campaign, can show any reduction in risk to cyclists, and some research shows an increase in risk with helmet wearing.

    Despite predictions of huge saving of life from helmet laws in Australia and New Zealand, the only effect has been to deter people from cycling, and it is probably no coincidence that they now have massive obesity problems. No-one in Denmark or Holland wears a helmet, but cycling there is much safer than the countries where all cyclists do, so whatever makes cycling safe, it isn’t helmets.

    Mr Luff might like to read a little about the actual effects of cycle helmets rather than accepting assumptions at face value, and it wouldn’t hurt Headway to inform themselves either. May I suggest the largest collection of cycle helmet research on the web? cyclehelmets.org

    In the middle of an obesity epidemic set to bankrupt the NHS, and largely caused by reduced exercise levels, promoting helmets, which has the sole effect of deterring people from cycling, is grossly irresponsible.

    • Bullshit. For example, I rode 25 km/h when I had crash with a car. The first impact was on my head (I fell on it) and the second impact was on left side. I broke my left arm and was heavily bruised, but nothing serious happend to my head. I had only a slight headache. Helmet seved my life, because there was no chance I wouldn’t have cracked my skull. Before the accident I had thought the fall like that is extremely rare and wouldn’t happen to me. Now I think differently.

      • Sylwia, I’m glad that you survived the collision without serious injury, but your assumption that the helmet saved my life is not supported by the scientific data.

        “It’s not surprising that people who’ve been through a crash on their bike and escaped serious consequences but found helmet damage often believe strongly that the helmet has “saved their life”. However, the number of helmet users with this experience seems very much greater than the number of bare-headed cyclists who ever suffer a head injury. This suggests that the reality might not be so straightforward.”

        http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1209.html

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