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risk taking

Pondering the peanutabout…..

5 Jan, 17 | by Bridie Scott-Parker

I read the StreetsBlogUSA post Study: Diagonal Intersections are Especially Dangerous for Cyclists today with great interest, for a number of reasons that I thought I would share with you.

Firstly, there is no doubt that cyclists are a vulnerable road user group, and that particular segments of road are more problematic for cyclists. The research cited in the post pertains to an Injury Prevention publication which examined, in-depth, police reports of 300 car-cyclist crashes in the New York city area , and the police templates to record crash-pertinent information across the US. Innovative research which approaches a known problem from novel perspectives helps to provide additional pieces for the jigsaw puzzle that we seek to solve, and this research was an intriguing read indeed.

Secondly, the research revealed that some road configurations appeared to increase crash risk (i.e., we want to reconfigure these roads), and that the safest option in the most problematic circumstances was to separate the motor vehicle from the vulnerable cyclist. The ‘solution’ for cyclist safety can be a highly contentious issue, particularly here in Australia in which the motor vehicle has traditionally – through necessity – dominated our vast landscape, and as health and other benefits become apparent, cycling is gaining traction. Indeed, Cadel Evans, arguably Australia’s most celebrated cyclist, has tried to bring clarity to this divisive issue; stating that

I don’t think we should separate the two, because most people who ride a bike also have a car. In the end, they’re public roads for everyone. It’s a privilege to use roads; not a right.

 We have to respect everyone who’s using them, whether they’re driving a car, bus, tractor or truck, or riding a bike or are a pedestrian. We have to respect each other’s privilege and safety.”

in response to the question “What do you say to drivers who think cyclists don’t belong on the road?

Thirdly, the innovative solution of the peanutabout helps speak to ideas beyond the cyclist themselves – this is consistent with systems thinking which argues that safety (in this case, cyclist safety) emerges from a complex web of actions and interactions among a breadth of stakeholders who play a role in the larger safety system (e.g., in the case of my own research interests, an application of systems thinking in the young driver road safety). Given we are more than half way through the Decade of Action for Road Safety, and in the case of Australia, our road toll returned to an upward trajectory in 2016 after many years of a downward trajectory, such innovative thinking is critical.

Fourthly, the researchers noted that the templates used by police to record crash-pertinent information did not provide adequate details regarding the crash circumstances. Unfortunately this is not an uncommon problem, and again one that I have come across in my own research endeavours. If we are to effectively prevent injury, we need as much contextual and other information regarding the incident contributing to the injury.

Fifthly, while the peanutabout appears to be an ideal solution to the critical issues identified for the area noted, I am mindful that drivers do not always ‘cope well’ with complex infrastructure such as roundabouts. As a researcher within the realm of young driver road safety, and the mother of teen with the learner licence which requires full supervision whenever she is behind the wheel, Learner drivers often tell me that they ‘freak out’ when they come to a roundabout, and it is not actually round! According to Learners, roundabouts must be round, while oval roundabouts and others shaped as a parallelogram should be called something different. Hmmmm, on reflection, maybe Learners will be okay with a ‘peanutabout’…..

Finally, I paused to reflect on the safety implications for motorcyclists – another vulnerable road user group. While traversing a roundabout on his Harley Davidson last year, a colleague was driven over by a driver behind the wheel of 4WD, texting, who reported that she had checked the roundabout for vehicles before entering, and that she did not see – or hear – my colleague already on the roundabout (and thus he had right of way) until her front right tyre was on top of his leg and his motorbike. Thankfully he has managed to retain his leg, however he has had multiple operations, requires additional surgery, and will be scarred for life and never walk without support again. My colleague is the first to acknowledge that motorcyclists sometimes deliberately place themselves in danger through their riding behaviours – himself included – however we both eagerly await any intervention that will increase motorcycle safety when traversing complex infrastructure such as roundabouts.

Dying en route to safety – the mortality rates of refugees to Europe

15 Sep, 15 | by Klara Johansson

Refugees are often barred from conventional modes of transport, and thus reduced to using unsafe means of travel. But people who are running away from horrible risks are willing to take quite extreme risks. Or as stated by the somalian-british poet Warsan Shire “you have to understand that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land” (from her poem Home, you can read it in fulltext here or hear the author read it herself here).

We’ve seen this over the last few years, when ever-increasing numbers of desperate people attempt to reach Europe, pushed by a number of converging factors (war in Syria, conflicts in Afghanistan and Nigeria, repressive regime in Eritrea – and overfull refugee camps, and instability in Libya, which has previously harboured many refugees). Europe is by no means the most common destination for refugees – millions are displaced within their own countries or harboured in neighbouring countries, often under very difficult conditions – but Europe is the most dangerous destination for clandestine migrants globally, according to the International Organization for Migration.

I’ve been looking for some comprehensive overview of mortality of the refugees entering Europe. There is a lot of data available online, but I couldn’t find any summary of mortality in relation to how many refugees are arriving. So I downloaded some of the available data and made some calculations and graphs, for my own understanding, and now sharing it with you. As always, please let me know if you find some factual errors or missing information (but complete zero-tolerance for haters and demagogues!)

The graph below shows the numbers of arriving migrants side to side with number of deaths (=dead and missing-at-sea), by year and split by which route they arrived. (See extra information about the data at the bottom of this post.) Deaths so far in 2015 are a little over 3,000, of which about 2,800 died on the Mediterranean and about 200 died on European ground. The IOM states that 95% of deaths on the Mediterranean occur along the Central Mediterranean route (going from North Africa to Italy), which we also see here (the red fields). Though the numbers of migrants are the highest in 2015, deaths are lower than in 2011, which is also a conclusion of the latest newsletter of the Migrant Files. This should mean that the overall mortality rate (per number of migrants) is going down. In the left graph, we also see that the safer, Eastern route has increased it’s share in 2015 (as far as I understand, partly from geopolitical reasons). So, have the mortality rates declined per route, or has the overall rate declined because the routes have shifted?

migrants and deaths, low qual smaller

I then computed mortality rates (graph below) based on the two different sources presented above. Combining different sources in this way is of course a risky business, in case they are based on different definitions or such. Or error sources could differ across time for the two sources. For instance, it’s possible that more migrants passed undetected in the earlier years, when Frontex had less resources – but of course, for the same reasons, more deaths could also have been undetected.

Bearing in mind that there are several possible sources of error for the graph below, I still think the graph shows a relevant story. Mortality is indeed down hugely compared to 2011, for all routes and especially for the Central Mediterranean route. Mortality on the Western Mediterranean route (from Morocco to Spain) has kept decreasing. But from 2012 onwards, mortality rates for the most dangerous route, the Central Mediterranean seem to remain roughly the same, despite the large rescue operations. This graph only goes up to July 2015, and the Migrant Files state that mortality rate during June-August has been the lowest since start of data collection, so it’s possible that the graph will change when all of 2015 is included.

The available data is a bit fuzzy still regarding the causes of death (many cases are unclear, so it’s hard to make an overview). For the deaths on the Mediterranean, drowning is one major cause of death of course, while others have suffocated below board or died from dehydration or exhaustion; also some deaths due to fall injuries after being pushed (accidentally or intentionally) and at least two cases of death during childbirth. For the deaths on land during 2015, suffocation seems to dominate (largely inside trucks during transport), followed by traffic related causes – including people hiding under trucks or similar to cross borders, and being crushed after losing their grip –  and exhaustion/dehydration and similar. For previous years, violence and suicide also play a significant role.

Data collection and research on vulnerable, hard-to-reach populations is extremely difficult. The data on deaths I used here have been painstakingly compiled from multiple sources by a group of obviously hardworking journalists; and the data on arrivals are based only on those who are registered. (See more details on data at the bottom of the post.) Both deaths and number of migrants are likely to be underestimated – and the incidence rate of non-fatal injuries remains unknown, along with other information that is vital both for humanitarian efforts and decision-making at the top political level. Maybe some organization could reach out to the refugees and crowdsource information about health, injuries and needs from those who know it best, using for instance a tool like Ushahidi? Refugees and aid workers along the routes have phones, all that would be needed is a central initiative to coordinate and validate the data. And the refugees crossing the mediterranean could maybe be tracked using cell phone data, like one research study did in Haiti, and which is now done at the Flowminder foundation.

For added understanding of the circumstances, turn to professor Hans Rosling:

…and for added understanding of the human side, I share a video from #helpiscoming. But you should have some tissue paper close at hand if you watch it.

 

About the sources:

Number of deaths are available from at least two sources, the Missing Migrants Project of the International Organization for Migration, and the Migrant Files (the latter is a project from a European consortium of journalists). The method of data compilation seems quite similar between the two sources (combining reports from rescuers, rescued, and media). In many cases of boats rescued at mid-sea, they only know the number of missing, and have no actual dead bodies, which mean that the numbers presented here represent “dead and missing”. The IOM numbers are marginally more conservative, but the difference is small. Since the IOM only has data for 2014 and 2015, I chose to use the data from the Migrant Files. The data is available as a spreadsheet from their site; I downloaded it, cleaned up the categorizations of routes, and summed it up by year, so you won’t find these exact numbers on their site.

I picked the data on arrivals from Frontex, the EU border authority. If you follow the link, data from 2015 are available in the map, and data and metadata for previous years are available per route if you click the arrows in the map. The arrivals along the Western Balkan route is a combination of people who already arrived via the Eastern Mediterranean route, and people arriving across land. So some of those who first came across the Eastern Mediterranean might be registered twice.

Children in virtual traffic testing situations – can we approximate real traffic situations?

20 Aug, 15 | by Klara Johansson

Young children are developmentally very bad at traffic safety. This was early demonstrated by Swedish researcher Stina Sandels in the 1960’s. In her groundbreaking studies where she studied children’s behaviour in traffic situations, she came to the conclusion that children under the age of 12 are developmentally unable to handle traffic in a safe way. She stated that ‘even the best road safety education cannot adapt a child to modern traffic, so that traffic has got to be adapted to the child.’

Since then, research has repeatedly shown this to be true. For instance, children before the age of eleven are usually not able to think from another perspective, and thus often fail to understand that a curve, hill or parked car may obstruct their view.

But in order to adapt traffic to children, we still need to study the choices children make in various traffic situations. And nowadays, when we’re aware of the high injury risk, we need to do such studies “in vitro”, in perfectly safe conditions.

How can we do that?

Well, nowadays there are technical options never before seen. An article in our current issue of Injury Prevention is using and further developing virtual reality to study if children crossing a street adjust their walking speed to avoid oncoming traffic. The technology is obviously still at an early stage, but Morrongiello, Corbett, Milanovic, Pyne & Vierich is building on previous research but with the improvement that they use a system that allows children to physically walk across a street in a virtual environment (while actually walking in an empty room, supervised by researchers).

The virtual environment used in the study (picture courtesy of Barbara A Morrongiello)

The virtual environment used in the study (picture courtesy of Barbara A Morrongiello)

The study shows that children’s average walking speed is a bad proxy for how fast they walk under the threat of oncoming traffic. This finding emphasizes the importance of using a VR testing environment where children can actually move around themselves instead of controlling an avatar that corresponds to their average normal walking speed, which has been used in previous studies.

Incidentally, I just read a long feature in Time about how far virtual reality has developed. The full article is unfortunately only available to subscribers, but there is a brief version here. To give a very short summary: virtual reality tec has come further than we think, but many headsets and graphics on the market are still fairly clunky (but new tec is set to reach the market within 18 months). The article also points out that VR can be useful for a wide range of purposes, including conference meetings, treatment of phobias, empathy training, and research. They don’t mention traffic safety research, but that just goes to show that each of us nerds in the world have our own specific interest to bring to the table.

One major differentiating feature of VR systems seems to be whether one would explore the virtual worlds by walking around or sitting on the couch. Well, for traffic safety research, the article by Morrongiello et al shows the value of one that lets the subject walk around.

Or cycle around – that seems easier to accomplish, using a training bike that responds to the virtual environment. For adults, studies using car driving simulators has been available for more than 20 years, but of course, that doesn’t require a VR headset.

The next technological step that VR geeks dream of is apparently “enhanced reality” – a headset that superimposes virtual holograms onto your real field of vision. From what I understand, this is more difficult technologically, but if accomplished, I imagine it could be a gold mine for safety research and training.

 

Snow safety in Australia: Perceptions from a well-travelled snow sport injury researcher

12 Aug, 15 | by Sheree Bekker

tailgrab whistler

This week I have the pleasure of sharing the views of one of my colleagues here at the Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (follow us on Twitter @ACRISPFedUni). Matthew Shumack (follow him on Twitter @snowboardPhD) is researching snow sports injury prevention (cue: research envy).

A cursory keyword search in Injury Prevention shows that snow sports injury prevention research in this journal is largely focused on head injuries and attitudes towards helmet use. Matt paints a picture below of a different, yet common-sense and just as important, consideration for snow sports safety.

I (MS) have spent the majority of my adult life chasing winter, the search for fresh snow and deep pow will continue. I am not the only one that chases the snow, Dickson even conducted a study to find out how many Australians travel for skiing and snowboarding. However, when you arrive in places like the U.S.A, Canada, or Japan the question is always asked…

“You get snow in Australia?”

Well we do, we get a lot of it. This year alone we have seen multiple evacuations from different places in Tasmania of people being snowed in. Snowboarders trapped in their car, and even a group of 10 people who needed to be airlifted out of a national park. Considering that winter is nowhere near over, awareness of the possibility of injury and even death needs to be articulated, not only our community, but to the international community as well. Last year (2014) we saw some tragic events occur over our winter, whether it was avalanche deaths, or injury and death occurring in organised ski areas.

These are not the first, and will not be the last, but the numbers may be limited with better injury prevention awareness campaigns. There is never going to be a seatbelt for skiing and snowboarding, but ensuring adequate health promotion of the risks of injury and death are needed on a wider scale.

As an interesting parallel to this, I (SB), have some Canadian friends living here in Australia (shout out to Wagga Wagga) who have told me that they never felt the cold as much in Canada as they do here. In fact, they would agree that Australian houses are just glorified tents in winter (read the interesting research linked in the article which shows that the poor quality of housing is behind many preventable deaths from exposure to cold in Australia). 

 

Risky opinions

29 Jul, 15 | by Sheree Bekker

“If you are a parent, you know that kids love to keep making circles” ~ Takaharu Tezuka

This charming Ted Talk from architect Takaharu Tezuka captured my imagination. It beautifully illustrates how architecture can positively influence physical activity levels – and we all have heard that sitting is the new smoking – however, I could not help but notice the take-away message that we are left with:

“My point is don’t control them, don’t protect them too much, and they need to tumble sometimes. They need to get some injury. And that makes them learn how to live in this world. I think architecture is capable of changing this world, and people’s lives. And this is one of the attempts to change the lives of children”

So, can child injury prevention include healthy risk promotion? A special feature in Injury Prevention explored this very question. This piece takes the reader on an interesting journey from the developmental benefits of risky play (via parenting and societal perceptions of risk, playground safety standards and children’s play space design, bubble-wrapped recreation, the public policy perspective, risk-benefit assessment, the state of the evidence) through towards calling for a culture of reasonableness: 

“The challenge is to broaden the focus and commit to a child-centric approach—one that includes not only the mitigation of injury but also optimal child development, which necessitates exposure to competence-appropriate risky play in a hazard-free play space”

This has been an ongoing conversation (as hinted at in the Ted Talk): Are our school playgrounds being wrapped in cotton wool?

Of course, there are varying stances on risk within the injury prevention world. Recently, Barry Pless posted his own opinion right here on the Injury Prevention blog in The Safety Hysteric Speaks Again, stating that:

“In some circles I am regarded as an injury prevention fascist, safety hysteric, protect the children fanatic, a wuss, or worse. This has come about because I consistently push for more prevention and less risk taking. I am not at all convinced that risk-taking is good for child development, as some would have us believe. Nor am I convinced that having a serious injury with possible life-long (if not life-threatening) consequences builds character, or whatever”

It seems that this topic is a can of worms, and one which many researchers are (rightly?) wary of engaging in outside of carefully crafted research papers. Our opinions are carefully kept out of the public eye – however social media is rapidly has changed this. A large element of the advocacy that I wrote about last week applies here: why allow others to own the conversation that we, as injury prevention researchers, have all the tools to constructively address?

Our opinions can, and should, be fluid and in flux – and certainly differing too – this is the very nature of advancing our life’s work. Fostering an open and ongoing conversation remains necessary to that very nature of our work, and is one which I believe we should all be partaking in more often.

So, any thoughts?

 

Data viz: adolescent injury and mental health

10 Jul, 15 | by Klara Johansson

I’m addicted to interactive visualisations of data, when they are well-made, informative and easy to use. One that I’ve returned to repeatedly is the “GBD 2010 Heat Map“, which ranks causes of deaths and DALY’s globally. The graph is based on the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk factors Study, an impressive project that aspires to quantify mortality and morbidity globally. (Needless to say, the uncertainty intervals are wider for countries lacking comprehensive mortality registration… but it is especially for those settings that this project is invaluable!)
It’s a quite simple graph, but the beauty lies in how easy it is to shift between the measures, groups and countries/regions you are interested in. NB: The picture below is just a static image showing only the age groups I selected for this blog post, go to the live graph to explore other options than those shown here.

One thing that stands out very clearly in this graph is something we are already aware of: that injury prevention is an urgent issue among adolescents and young adults. Of the top ten causes of death worldwide in the ages 15-19 and ages 20-24, injuries rank as first (road injuries), second (self-inflicted), third (violence), fifth/ninth (drowning) and ninth/tenth (burns).

If we would change* the measure shown to YLD – years lived with disability – the main cause of morbidity for those aged 15-24 is depression; other mental health problems such as anxiety, conduct disorder and substance abuse are also among the top ten (see the graphs for ages 15-19 and ages 20-24 ).
These two issues – injuries and mental health – are not unrelated. Of course, mental health problems are strongly related to suicide and self-harm. But a recent article in Injury Prevention by McDonald, Sommers & Fargo also highlights the complex interrelations between mental health problems and risky driving, a complexity that seems particularly prominent among adolescents and young adults compared to adults. The article is based on a sample of youth and adults who are high-risk drivers, and shows, for the younger group, several significant pathways from depression and conduct behavior to various aspect of risky driving. (Similar results have been demonstrated earlier for example by our own Bridie Scott-Parker, a short report here in Injury prevention, and a path analysis in British Journal of Psychology.)
Thus, to some extent, mental health promotion and injury prevention need to go hand in hand, maybe especially among adolescents.

 

* In the live graph, select the measure you want by using controls in the top panel. Here you can also select age groups, male/female/total and countries/regions. Selecting regions can be a bit tricky, which I find to be the main drawback of this graph.

More background on our blogging team

19 Jun, 15 | by Bridie Scott-Parker

Blog 3: So today I wanted to share some more background on our blogging team. As an applied social psychologist, I find this information very interesting indeed!

What excites you about being part of the Injury Prevention social media editorial team?  

Sheree Bekker: The invaluable conversation that has sprung up around scholarly work through the collaborative power of social media and blogs inspires me to no end. I tend to find more relevant scholarly content through Twitter than through traditional platforms, and Injury Prevention has played a big part in that. As researchers, I believe that we should own our voice on social media, and constructively add value to this conversation.

David Bui: Through my studies in medical school I have seen the costs of injuries to society and individuals worldwide.  This is a great opportunity to harness the underutilised power of Social Media in health promotion and Injury Prevention, across multiple disciplines and multiple borders.

Angy El-Khatib: Being a part of the Injury Prevention social media editorial team is a great opportunity personally and collectively. By being a part of the social media editorial team, I am able to stay up to date on various topics within the realm of Injury Prevention while acquiring different perspectives from individuals from different backgrounds, disciplines, and locations. I’m also excited to be able to potentially increase readership and engage readers to create a conversation around the latest Injury Prevention research and ideas.

Klara Johansson: I am very interested to explore ways to share and disseminate knowledge and research results, outside the “old-school”, regular channels. I look forward to learning from my new co-editors, who all seem to be great communicators.

Joseph Magoola: The opportunity to work and collaborate with a variety of scholars on the injury prevention platform is nothing short of exciting. It also excites and inspires me to have an opportunity to represent Africa since low and medium income countries bear the brunt of the injury burden.

Julian Santaella-Tenorio: It is really exciting to be part of this team and to have a space to communicate and express ideas on ways to improve injury prevention, and to discuss about new studies and topics relevant to this field. I am very motivated to learn more and continue growing as a researcher as I walk through this experience.

What are you passionate about?

Sheree Bekker: Intersectional issues drive my life’s work, and my aim is that my research is, and always will be, an extension of that.

David Bui: Passionate about bringing people and ideas together.

Angy El-Khatib: I am passionate about translating scientific evidence and research into public health action. My goal is to improve the health and wellbeing of myself as well as my community. Outside of my work, I am passionate about health, fitness, and wellness.

Klara Johansson: Open discussions and innovative research in collaborative teams with high scientific ambition + high levels of tolerance and kindness; I also enjoy making difficult subjects understandable to students and the general population. Passions on my free time: nature, gardening, books, movies, writing fiction, playing music (clarinet, harmonium, piano, accordion).

Joseph Magoola: Writing on my social media accounts (facebook, twitter and my blog) as a way of reaching out to the masses. I am also interested travelling a lot, especially by road and as such, ensuring road safety is part and parcel of my aims to contribute towards reducing the carnage of our roads.

Julian Santaella-Tenorio: I am passionate about things that can make people have a better, healthier and happier life. I am inspired by ideas challenging previous knowledge, creative thinking finding answers from different angles, and the power of multidisciplinary groups. That is why I am passionate about public health research.

 

I hope you are looking forward to hearing from our bloggers, starting next month!

More background on our new blogging team

18 Jun, 15 | by Bridie Scott-Parker

Today I will share more about our blogging team members.

Blog 2: Explain your injury prevention research and interests.

Sheree Bekker: My research investigates safety promotion and injury prevention policy and practice within community sport in Australia. I have a particular interest in dissemination and social marketing. The overall purpose of my research is to allow people to be safe, as well as feel safe, whilst participating in sport or physical activity.

David Bui: Undertaking a number of different projects currently; my injury prevention research focuses on Hip fracture and Falls Prevention research, working with Neuroscience Research Australia. I am also looking into Social Media and its utility in healthcare and civilian settings, and I believe that it represents a powerful new medium in health promotion and injury prevention.

Angy El-Khatib: I am interested in integrating public health approaches with athletic training practice. Athletic training has traditionally focused on the individual but may be able to maximize the effectiveness of prevention efforts by using population-level approaches to improve health and wellness.

Klara Johansson: I am not currently doing research on injury/safety. But I am interested in social difference in injury risk – and also how perceived risk of injuries affects people’s daily lives, mobility, fears and physical activity; and how perceived and real injury risks interrelate with each other and with gender and socioeconomics. Main focus on adolescent safety; real and perceived. Also interested in open data and availability/accessibility of injury statistics globally.

Joseph Magoola: My research interests center around prevention of injury, especially through generation of data for evidence-based decision making and policy action. I am also interested in the use of media to disseminate research findings and for advocacy.

Julian Santaella-Tenorio: At the moment I conduct research on policy evaluation, specifically on policies that impact injury-related outcomes. I am interested in looking at substance use policies and firearm-related legislation and their effects on the health of populations.

Tomorrow: Learn about their passions!

The Mysterious Green Hand

24 Feb, 15 | by Barry Pless

FullSizeRenderI voted for the design of the Journal’s new cover even though I was not sure why I liked it better than the alternatives. I’m pleased that whatever attracted me to it pleased others as well. But, from the start, the small green hand has puzzled me. It seemed a bit mysterious and not just because it cleverly merged into the background. I’m still not sure what it is intended to represent. The red is obvious: it is what most injury prevention messages say, “Stop; don’t go here.” Or, “Don’t do this; it’s dangerous and could cause a serious injury.” So, the red hand is no mystery. But the green hand is another matter. It could mean many things.

 One thing I hope it is not intended to convey is that the Journal encourages risk-taking. I know some regard my opposition to this as foolish, but even if I’m wrong, at least I’m consistent because I’ve held this view for many years. Recently, however, some distinguished colleagues insisted that I was wrong because they were convinced risk-taking is essential for healthy child development. They even argued that risk avoidance was itself ‘harmful’. When I asked for evidence in support of these assertions they insisted that not all evidence needs to be ‘scientific’.

 Respectfully, I disagree. I am not an evidence-based evangelist but I do believe that there is a clear hierarchy in the many paths to knowledge. Most scientists agree that clinical wisdom, years of experience, or the convergence of opinions from diverse disciplines is not equivalent to what we learn from disciplined, well-designed research. They (and I) believe the best evidence comes from true experiments but we accept that these are often impossible in a field such as ours. So we often resort to quasi-experimental designs. But I hope there are not many among us who would accept that ‘proof’ of a position can comfortably rest only on anecdotal accounts or personal experience.

 Back to the green hand: I repeat that I trust it is not intended as a symbolic nod to those who are convinced that risk taking is essential to healthy development or even a good way to prevent injuries. Instead, I hope it is intended to say something like, ‘Follow me along this path. Evidence suggests it may be risky but it is safer than the alternatives.’ In other words, the green hand is intended to remind us that there is a middle ground. For example, some communities in the US and Canada have recently banned tobogganing on hills that were found to be extremely dangerous. I think this makes good sense. However, many of these and other communities pointed users to hills that are far less dangerous because icy patches and obstacles have been removed. 

I hope the green hand is there to wave us towards safer alternatives but NOT to urge abandoning reasonable caution.

 PS. I urge, beg, implore all who disagree to submit comments to this blog. Let’s liven things up and debate our views vigorously.

Taking the good with the bad: bike helmet website

22 Oct, 14 | by Barry Pless

I recently came across a website that managed to be both impressive and depressing. The link is http://www.cycle-helmets.com/index.html

I have no idea how old it is or even, precisely, who is responsible for it. What is impressive is that it includes a massive amount of data on bicycling, bike helmet use, and helmet legislation for several countries, but principally for Australia. Some of the data are presented as graphs and others in tables. The amount of work that must have gone into assembling all this is staggering. I somehow suspect it has not been updated recently but it is still worth a visit if you are looking for any statistics related to these topics.

So why did I find it depressing? Simply because the commentary and text make it clear that all this effort is intended to discredit and oppose helmet legislation. Clearly, nothing I read convinces me that the data well support their opposition but to be fair, this is a far site better than the usual diatribes unsupported by anything remotely ‘scientific’.

For the record, I am not convinced helmet legislation discourages cycling or even if it does, the effect is short-lived. More importantly, as I have argued elsewhere and repeatedly, I am also not convinced that casual cycling, by children or adults, can do much to enhance cardiac fitness or reduce obesity. By casual cycling I mean trips of a few kilometres, by children or adults, to and from school or work, at a pace much slower than racers or couriers. In other words, the kind of recreational bicycling that is typical or average.

But even though I remain unhappy about the goals of this website, I must admit it is well done and exhaustive. And, for the most part, it seems that the data are accurate, even if they are consistently misinterpreted.

PS – At the very end I found this note: 

This website is maintained by Chris Gillham, a print/radio journalist and web designer based in the West Australian capital of Perth.
The site has been on the internet since 2000 and the accuracy of its data has never been challenged by relevant authorities. All information on the site is sourced to academic and government reports.

 

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