For the past month, 16-year-old Ryan Smith has been in a coma brought on by injuries sustained in a bicycle collision. He wasn’t wearing a helmet, because he didn’t want to “mess up his hair” before work. Now, his father Mark, a paramedic, is calling for a law mandating that all bicyclists wear helmets.
"I always wear a helmet, I always told Ryan to wear a helmet but he is 16, his hair is his life and sadly he has the 'not going to happen to me attitude'. He's like any young lad, they just think they are invincible,” he said, speaking to The Telegraph. "But in a click of your fingers our family's life has changed permanently."
The accident happened in late July outside Lincolnshire, U.K. On his way to work, Ryan collided with a van, and was rushed to Pilgrim Hospital. Since then, he has been on a respiratory ward, awaiting transfer to the specialist neurology Abbey Ward at the Lincoln County hospital.
"We spent a week with nothing, then a twitch from his left arm and now he blinks to my voice,” his father said. “We are still waiting to see the extent of the damage – there is no way of telling what sort of son we will have back.”
"But one thing is for sure - it won't be the same Ryan," he continued.
While there is currently no law for helmet use in the U.K., safety campaigners have raised the issue on multiple occasions. Smith hopes that Ryan’s accident will prove to be the much-needed wakeup call opponents need.
"This needs to go to Parliament straight away but people have no excuse not to go and buy a helmet,” he said. "There is one in everyone's price range and you should wear it even if you're just riding to the shop.”
Although there is no federal law mandating bicycle safety in the U.S., state legislature typically requires adolescents and children aged 16 and younger to wear a helmet whenever they ride their bike. That said, 89 percent of bicycle deaths involve adults – and of the 616 recorded deaths in 2009, 91 percent weren’t wearing a helmet.
Given the medical costs associated with injuries sustained from bicycle accidents, the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute estimates that each $10 bike helmet generates $570 for society.