As the Great Thanksgiving Migration approaches, I've got driving on the mind, which kind of nudged something I've been percolating on for some time: Why don't we wear helmets when riding in cars?
This is not a new musing; people have tried marketing car helmets for kids. (The thin end of the wedge?)
It also comes up whenever there's a debate about motorcycle helmet laws -- the "let the riders decide" crowd brings it up, and the pro-regulation folks either ignore it or dismiss it as a reducing the argument to absurdity.
Of course, the very idea gets wrapped up in issues of societal costs vs. personal responsibility and freedom, and is invariable accompanied by such terms as "nanny state" and "bubble-wrapping the world."
Do we even need helmets in cars? You could rationalize not needing them lots of ways:
* Inside a car, your head isn't as exposed as while on a motorcycle (But it's to prevent your head from banging around inside -- that's why fighter pilots wear them. But what about airline pilots? Hrm.)
* The safety systems inside cars already protect the head in many ways -- padded interiors, head rests, seat belts, and particularly air bags (though what about before they were available?)
* Helmets cut down on visibility and hearing (but isn't that also considered and dismissed for motorcyclists?)
But then you look at race car drivers. Even autocross drivers, many of whom drive (mostly) regular cars, use helmets on the course.
I don't know if there have been every been any studies about the benefits of helmet use in regular driving -- I would assume it'd be so unpopular that even a study would be a non-starter.
It basically comes down to the fact that most folks (myself included) just wouldn't want to wear a helmet inside a car. Ever.
Helmet laws for motorcyclists? Sure -- comparatively few people ride motorcycles, and if someone else has to do something that benefits society, we're all for it. Right?
Now, I don't think I'm turning libertarian; I don't plan on driving with a helmet anytime soon; and I do still think that mandatory helmet laws for bicyclists and motorcyclists are a good idea. I just wanted to think a little bit about why we think what we think.