National Safety Month:
The Importance of Wearing a Bicycle Helmet, My Story
Thomas “Tex” Bennett – Guest Blogger
June is National Safety Month, which focuses on reducing leading causes of injuries and deaths at work, on the road, and in homes. The Poe Center would like to thank Tex Bennett for sharing his personal story to remind us about the importance of bicycle safety.
It was one of those wonderful gorgeous weekends that we are sometimes blessed with in NC during the winter months. It made me remember the main reason that I moved down here from Pennsylvania in 1986. It was a Sunday morning. I was very excited because I was planning a bike ride for the day. It had been months since I rode my bike because of some back issues that had been plaguing me for a long time.
I had decided that for today’s ride I was going drive to the Neuse River Trail Greenway about 25 minutes away from my house. Normally in the past, I would just jump on my bike and go for a ride from my house and onto the highways near my house in southeastern Wake County. But, I was very tentative to ride the highways on this day. My tentativeness was the result of the number of serious accidents between cars and bikes in the recent months. On this day, I was going to play it safe and ride about 20 miles on the Neuse River Greenway. No crazy drivers to deal with, just a beautiful smooth asphalt trail along the meandering Neuse River. What could go wrong?
After my relatively short drive from home to the Auburn Knightdale parking lot on the Neuse River Greenway Trail, I removed my bike from the car and did my normal suiting up for my ride. I decided that I was going to ride south on the trail to the end, which is located in Johnston County. After I started on my ride, the beautiful Carolina blue sky was starting to turn gray. Once I entered into the Johnston County section of the trail, the wind was picking up, and the sky was looking like it was definitely going to rain. While I was riding in Johnston County, I just happened to see a couple that are very good friends of mine. I was excited to see them; so I stopped and talked to them for a little bit, but I did notice that neither was wearing a helmet. I proceeded to give them a good natured hard time. They gave me the typical excuse of “since we are on the trail and not the road, we are pretty safe.” I then made my case on why it was important to wear a helmet at all times. At this point, it started raining, and I decided I needed to head back to the car about six miles back.
In less than 10 minutes, I was back in Wake County and then the whole world seemed to fall out from under me. I was going around a turn at about 20 miles an hour and suddenly hit a very slippery spot on the trail. I went down so fast that I was totally confused about what happened. I have one of the racing type road bikes with the very thin tires. At that point, I knew that I was in bad shape. I was definitely aware that I had some broken bones. At first I thought that I had seriously hurt my back. Fortunately, I was not alone, but there was a family that was walking the trail coming from the opposite direction. They were witness to the whole incident. They offered to call an ambulance, but I asked them to call my wife instead. After about 10 minutes of laying on the trail, I was painfully able to get up. There was another young man that fortunately had a first-aid kit with him. He cleaned up my left arm which was bleeding profusely from some serious road rash.
Fortunately, where I crashed was at one of the many parking lots that line the trail. This made it very easy for my wife to find me and take me to a hospital. It was raining very hard at this point. There just happened to be a “Trail Ambassador” that was also present to witness the whole crash. She just happened to be parked at that exact parking lot. She was very nice and let me sit in her car out of the pouring rain until my wife was able to arrive and transport me to the nearest hospital.
In the end, I had two broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and a punctured lung. I had to have surgery to fix the broken collar bone. This was relatively minor compared to what could have happened. On my way to the hospital I noticed that my $150 helmet had three significant cracks in it. If I had not been wearing a helmet that day, I would have just been another statistic or at least had a major head injury.
This is my story. Please wear a bicycle helmet at all times, no matter what age. If you have children, teach them at the very earliest age to wear a helmet.
Thomas “Tex” Bennett, is a Program Specialist for Wake County Cooperative Extension/4-H and has worked for 4-H for almost 14 years. Tex grew up in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area – Go Steelers! – and graduated from Westminster College in Pennsylvania with a BA in Political Science. He moved to NC in 1986 and is married with 2 daughters. His oldest daughter just graduated from UNC Chapel Hill, and the youngest is getting ready to graduate from Garner High School. She too will be going to UNC Chapel Hill. Tex has been an avid cyclist all his life.
Interested in bringing this topic to your students? Contact the Poe Center to schedule a program.
It’s All About Me!
Grade Level: Kindergarten – 1st | Program Length: 45 minutes
You are someone special! Through a series of hands-on activities and games, this program illustrates the message of protecting yourself from the everyday dangers of daily activities. Learn how to stay safe and healthy while still having fun!