Friday, April 11, 2008

Seattle cyclist claims helmet saved his head from certain death

Mark Seawall was hit from behind by a drunk driver while riding his bicycle. He was knocked unconscious and didn't know what happened. "I knew something bad had happened. I knew I had been in a bicycle accident apparently," he said about the moment he came to in the ambulance. But now the news media claims the truck ran over Mark's head and he was saved by his helmet!

If you're naive enough to believe this ludicrous claim, consider these photos. This is your brain:

This is your helmet-protected brain under the wheel of a car.

Any questions?

See more photos and commentary about these types of claims that helmets can protect against rollovers by cars and trucks, see the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute page. There are more photos here along with a description of the testing.


  1. Christopher Ray MillerApril 11, 2008 at 2:36 PM

    I remember something in the news like this about a month ago. I thought that if the helmet had managed to save the guy's head, he was just lucky the car didn't run over his neck (after all, we need an intact throat to breathe -- and presumably an intact spinal cord to function below the neck -- or his chest, where the lungs and heart are located. Isn't the possibility of having these parts of the body run over as compelling an argument for compulsory neck and body armour for cyclists (and for pedestrians to boot, since whether you are walking, skateboarding, skating or biking when hit by a motor vehicle makes no difference to what happens to you at the time of impact with the vehicle/ground/other hard surface)...? No helmet activist ever seems to think of these equally obvious possibilities, even if we accept the selective misinformation put out to the public about helmets...

  2. Now there's a physics experiment.

    Run over that thing at all different approach points to see when it would flat run over (in which case he'd still be squished), when the wheel would have *missed* him entirely if the helmet hadn't been there, but it hit the helmet and squirt him out of the way... which then might have protected him from the rear wheel (but I'd imagine the driver at least reflexively swerved a bit)... hmmm...

  3. "You went over my helmet?!"
    "Well, n-not over, really, m-m-more to the side... no! No! Aaaaaaaaaa!"

  4. While the notion that your head would survive with a car on top of it, a shoe was sufficient to protect my foot when it got run over by a station wagon and a glove was sufficient to prevent injury when my hand got run over by an ice skate. With the car it felt like there was major damping from the suspension. With a helmet, the more accurate test would be to see how well it deflects your head away from the wheel, plus how much of that initial impact it absorbs.

  5. Hey, the watermelon did not get destroyed. It was saved!

  6. I don't know why it's difficult to believe this at all. Shoot - look at the picture - the melon is still more or less intact. And I've heard of much-crazier things that turn out to be true.

    This page suggests the 'squirt effect' may help save people:

    And this guy says that, yes, his head did, in fact, get rolled right over by a truck - and the helmet looks convincing:

    If it's an inconvenient truth that these folks' skulls were kept intact by helmets, then that's just something we cyclists need to deal with and get over.

    If we hope to avoid mandatory helmet laws, then we need to be organized, have better reasons than "duh!", and be willing to put down any authoritarian helmet law attempts if and when they arise.

    Happy helmet-less cycling! :)

  7. I find the picture hard to believe. The helmet looks like it sustained serious damage, but there doesn't seem to be a 'track' from the wheel up the back of the helmet.

    Also, there isn't much compression of the tire, which makes me think that the helmet was broken separately, with the 'scene' assembled afterward with a wheel conveniently arranged on the top of the helmet.

  8. Silvercosmos: Bike helmets are made out of polystyrene (EPS). Foam. With a thin shell of plastic and lots of holes. You can break one in half with your hands. How is a piece of EPS going to support the 1 ton that most small cars weigh?

  9.'s my theory that this is a flawed test...speculation, i know but one simply cannot trust a melon that continues to smile w/ a car tire on top of it...
    ...accept at face value ???...i dare say, no !!!...

  10. welp, seems like in the "test" they lowered the van onto the helmeted melon. That is generally not anything like what happens in traffic accidents.

    It also seems like they *could* have rather easily simulated a traffic accident and "run over" the helmeted melon.

    Maybe they did and didn't get the results they wanted. Makes it look like an experiment far from keeping to the scientific method; rather a distorted demonstration with an agenda.

    Couple of months back a local guy was clocked by a driver at a 4-way stop and the guy was tossed up onto the windshield. Smacked it hard... with the helmet. Helmet cracked. Head intact.
    Make your own choices - but these arguments are working against themselves because of their weaknesses.

  11. The helmet argument is as old Well it's old.

    I'm so sure my argument will sway you to my belief that I'm going to exclude it.

  12. You guys, the "they" of the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute behind the watermelon experiment is Randy Swart. Randy is the guy who advocates strongly for mandatory helmet use. His agenda is very mcuh pro-helmet-use.

    I've gone into the windshield also. This was nearly three decades ago when helmet use was not common. Besides the big Frankenstein bolts sticking out of my head, Touret's outbursts and uncontrollable bowel movements, everything seems to be just fine.

  13. I simply consider that having each person learn responsibility for their own carcass is a much better argument against legislated armor than "it doesn't work!" because that argument ain't gonna work.