With the arrival of summer, many people have swept the cobwebs from their garage-bound bicycles and taken to the roads and trails with their pedal-powered transit, and likely, a protective helmet for their head. But can this hard cover for your skull truly protect you from injury and death in a crash? Mounting research says yes, reinforcing the idea that it’s best to dust off that helmet and don the lid as you hit the streets.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), injuries to the noggin occur in one out of three cyclists who are involved in non-fatal accidents; and trauma to the head poses the greatest risk of disability and death for bikers. One CDC study found that bicycling resulted in the highest number of sports-related traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs. You or someone you know may have experienced a mild TBI known as a concussion. Generally, people fully recover from concussions, but moderate and severe TBIs can cause lasting health consequences and death, especially for children.
Helmets Save Lives
While helmets don’t protect against concussions, they have consistently proven to reduce severe head injury and death for cyclists. In a meta-analysis that reviewed more than 100,000 crashes involving cyclists, a Norwegian researcher showed that helmets reduced the risk for serious head injury in riders by 60 percent. Another analysis of 6,267 patients admitted to hospitals for brain hemorrhaging after bicycle accidents found that those wearing helmets had a 51 percent lower risk of developing a severe TBI and had an overall lower mortality rate.
Even though evidence points to the pros of helmet use, self-reported 2012 data from 863 adult bicyclists in the U.S. revealed that more than half of them never wear a helmet. In many cases, bicyclists who sustain head injuries aren’t wearing helmets, says Fargol Rezayaraghi, a mechanical engineering Ph.D. student at the University of Washington. “They help at some points,” she says of helmets.
Helmets have never been an attractive cycling accessory, but the protection they provide is undeniable, says Mehmet Kurt, assistant professor in University of Washington’s mechanical engineering department and Rezayaraghi’s advisor. Most bicycle helmets consist of an outer polycarbonate shell surrounding a layer of expanded polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, with padding on the innermost surface. During impact, the hard shell deforms and cracks, distributing the energy across the helmet. The foam compresses, absorbing another proportion of the impact so that the head absorbs the least amount of force.
Helmet Technology is Improving
For decades, helmet design didn’t deviate from this basic blueprint. But recently, as neuroscientists advanced their understanding of brain injury mechanics, helmet design evolved to keep up. Conventional helmets were designed to protect against direct, or linear, impacts, but often when the head is implicated in an accident it hits a surface at an odd angle, increasing the risk for the dome to not only compress but also rotate. Research shows that this rotational motion is more damaging to the brain than the linear movement caused by direct hits.
“Rotational kinematics are more relevant within the context of concussions because they can cause more diffuse deformation in the brain,” says Kurt, pointing to an example he learned at Stanford from his postdoc advisor. “Take a snow globe, move it left and right, up and down; the flakes wouldn’t move, they would only move when you rotate the snow globe. The brain-skull system is similar in that regard.”
Kurt and his colleagues at the University of Washington recently published a review of 12 studies that tested the effectiveness of new and conventional helmet technology. They found that helmet designs that dampened rotational forces on the head during impact reduced metrics that lead to brain injury more than conventional helmets. These three designs performed best, though the authors say more research is needed to confirm their results:
Multidirectional Impact Protection System (MIPS): A low-friction layer added between the exterior helmet and the head allows the head to rotate independently of the helmet, absorbing some of the head’s rotational velocity on impact.
WaveCel: A collapsible cell structure lines the inside of a helmet and more fully absorbs the force of an impact.
Hövding: An inflatable helmet deploys on impact, like a car airbag.
Helmets Are Just One Step
While helmets have proven to guard against severe head injury in accidents at speeds slower than 20 mph, the level of protection decreases with increased velocity, such as in a collision with a car. In 2020, 1,260 cyclists died in the U.S. in preventable accidents, and 64 percent involved a motor vehicle, according to the National Safety Council.
Opposers of bicycle helmet laws say helmets deter people from riding bikes, and there is safety in numbers when it comes to cycling. When there are more bikes on the road, drivers get used to seeing them and reacting to them safely. Some cyclists also argue that helmet laws can shift the safety responsibility onto cyclists, and away from car drivers who are sharing the road. Safe driving and better bicycle infrastructure in urban areas certainly improve cyclist safety, while opting to wear a helmet is a preventive action cyclists can take no matter what, says Kurt.
“I cannot say that it’s the only way to reduce the number of head injuries,” Rezayaraghi says. “But wearing a helmet is definitely one of the most important things that you can do to reduce the risk of injury or at least reduce its severity.”
Tesla’s Are Safer and Here is Proof
I did some research on Tesla safety using non-Tesla data to address the issue from the AI experts. Some AI experts criticized FSD. I used US, UK government and insurance data to show Tesla is already safer and why we should expect more safety from Autopilot and FSD. I also provided context about where and how accidents and deaths occur with cars.
Are Tesla cars safer and have they saved lives ? Spoiler Yes.
Has Tesla Autopilot saved lives? Again Yes. but I will provide data.
Is FSD beta safe? Yes,
Is Autopilot safe? How many lives would you expect to save by superior automatic lane keeping? 20-30% of traffic deaths.
Will Full FSD be safer? Yes, and safety score can help ensure it will be.
Can Safety Scoring, Insurance and FSD get more optimal usage of FSD? Yes.
All Tesla’s come with safety features expected to reduce accidents by 30-50% (NHTSA analysis of those features)
Youtube videos by FSD beta users show large improvement over last 8 months. No major accidents or deaths using FSD beta with 100k users for 7 months
Insurance and government statistics in US and UK show Tesla’s are among the safest cars involved in the fewest accidents. About 40% below average in US. Very Low accidents involvement in UK (10 times less than Toyota, Ford and several others of number per 10,000 cars).
UK Car Statistics
Tesls is among the manufacturers with the least number of accidents per 10,000 models?
Morris – 16
Austin – 26
Tesla – 28
Ferrari – 39
Aston Martin – 40
Lotus – 55
Bentley – 75
This is ten times less than Ford, Toyota and Mercedes in the UK.
Tesla is willing to charge 30-60% less for those with good Tesla Safety Scores. Can motivate 60% safer driving and lower accidents. Safety Scores with Real Time Insurance pricing can motivate safer driving.
Safety Scoring could be adjusted to ensure FSD monitoring behavior after FSD is fully released for general usage.
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.
Roe v. Wade Was Overturned. Here’s how Your Phone Could Be Used to Spy on You.
From figuring out how often you go to the bathroom to potentially being used to prosecute you, your trusty smartphone might not be so trusty in a post-Roe world.
SOPHIE BUSHWICK: If Roe v. Wade is overturned, so-called trigger laws already passed in 13 states could ban abortion in large parts of the country. Here’s how your smartphone could be used to prosecute you if you do decide to have an abortion in an area where it’s criminalized.
First of all, your phone is a major tracker of personal information.
It records a huge volume of data, your browsing information, location data, and payment history, that, taken together, can reveal your most intimate activities, such as how many times you go to the bathroom.
If a basic activity like reproductive healthcare becomes criminalized, experts say courts could then issue a warrant for your device, which would then reveal all of that personal information.
If this all sounds a little too dystopian, that’s because it is.
Even with Roe intact, digital footprints have been used against people seeking to terminate pregnancies.
Imagine a situation where a pregnant person is admitted to the hospital for treatment for a miscarriage.
That person’s phone could then be placed under surveillance under suspicion of having tried to induce that miscarriage.
Not only that; privacy experts warn that law enforcement could actually sidestep the need for a warrant by going directly to private companies.
So how would that work?
In case you didn’t know, data brokers have been collecting your personal information for years, and they sell that data for a fee.
Experts say there is actually precedent for law enforcement using data brokers to sidestep the Fourth Amendment.
By issuing a broad subpoena or buying information in bulk, law enforcement could crack down on a large number of people at once.
For example, they could use geofence or other location data, part of your digital footprint, to find everyone who had visited a clinic.
That information becomes even more revealing when it’s combined with health data.
That’s because experts warn these apps can actually identify if you’re pregnant before you know it yourself.
And yes, government officials in this country have actually charted people’s periods to determine if they were pregnant.
And know HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is not necessarily going to help you either.
It’s important to note that apps have no obligation to keep your data secure and private, and HIPAA does not really apply here.
Basically, your vulnerability and privacy is in the hands of the companies that develop these software apps.
That’s why some privacy advocates call for pressuring these companies directly to keep your data private and safe.There are still ways to protect yourself, but relying on the government or the tech industry to do so isn’t one of them.
- reproductive rights,
- roe v wade
Deadly Heat Wave’s Lesson: ‘This Is the Future We All Face’
Sweltering in temperatures 40 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal in a city where air conditioning isn’t common, Papaefthimiou tried every possible last-ditch effort to help keep residents cool and healthy.
There were the jury-rigged misting stations at public parks, stadium shelters kept open through the night and the hundreds of calls Papaefthimiou and her staff made to subsidized housing managers begging them to check on elderly residents.
Amid it all, she remembers one thought piercing through the 116 F heat: “Oh, eff, this is what climate change does. This is the future we all face.”
Nearly one year after that heat dome, emergency managers, doctors and even transit systems across the Pacific Northwest say they are taking lessons learned from the unprecedented event to prepare for this summer as climate change increases the likelihood of similar heat domes occurring again.
“It was something that we knew we needed to be preparing for and had put in grant applications for mitigation measures, but when it came, it was just very sobering,” said Lara Whitely Binder, head of climate preparedness in Washington’s King County.
To understand just how unusual the heat dome’s impact was, it’s best to look at the numbers. An analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that during May and June of 2021, 3,504 people went to emergency rooms for heat-related illnesses in the Department of Health and Human Services’ Region 10 areas, which encompasses the Pacific Northwest.
On June 28, when temperatures peaked at 116 F — 42 degrees higher than the average daily maximum temperature for the region — there were some 2,779 emergency room visits for heat-related illnesses. On the same date one year earlier, there were just nine emergency visits for heat.
Ultimately, more than 160 people died from extreme heat in Oregon and Washington, many of them because they remained in spaces without air conditioning or other means of cooling down.
Dr. Alex St. John, an emergency physician at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, worked just one shift during the heat dome but says the emergency room was as intense as it had been during the first days of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It just felt like there were more patients than we could possibly stay on top of, and we were in a damage-control mode where we were just trying to make sure that all of the sickest people were getting the major treatments they need,” he said.
One of those patients was an elderly woman who came into the emergency room with a core body temperature of 104 degrees — dangerously hot and close to suffering from fatal heat stroke. To rapidly cool her down, St. John zipped her up to her chest in a black body bag usually meant for corpses and filled it with ice.
St. John did his medical training in Arizona, where he would treat heat illness patients by putting cold, damp cloths on their skin. In the nine years he has been practicing in Seattle, he said he only had to treat a handful of heat-stressed patients and never anyone in such dire straits. He had only heard of using body bags to treat heat stroke days before, when a colleague mentioned exasperation at having to use it themselves.
Though unconventional, the trick saved the woman’s life. St. John said he wouldn’t hesitate to reach for a body bag to treat heat stroke in the future, but he worries that higher temperatures could one day become so bad and prolonged they would strain the capacity of the hospital cafeteria’s ice machine.
“It was really surreal to be at work in Seattle and having to see patients in worse conditions than I had seen in the Sonoran Desert taking care of people,” he said.
‘Environmental heat is an anomaly’
While excessive heat would force health impacts in any region, last year’s heat dome was particularly dangerous because residents and municipalities are not used to such high temperatures in the Pacific Northwest.
Many don’t have air conditioning — including Seattle’s own real estate.
During the heat dome, “cooling stations” were set up in just three community centers, in part because the city’s other 21 don’t have air conditioning, said Emergency Planning Coordinator Lucia Schmit.
“Our response was stymied by the fact that the infrastructure in our city has been built, essentially, to retain heat because environmental heat is an anomaly,” she said.
Those cooling centers were not highly utilized and focus groups since the summer have shown there is a need for cooling centers catering to unique populations. Families with young children want to go to cooling centers in their own neighborhoods where their kids can run around and play, while elderly residents would be more likely to visit centers with quiet areas. People experiencing homelessness, meanwhile, need centers where they can access foods and services.
But catering to all of those different needs can be tough when schools and other city property in neighborhoods don’t have air conditioning, either. What’s more, the heat dome last year hit while pandemic-related closures meant many library locations were not open, but Schmit said the city and library system are now looking at whether libraries could help folks cool down on hot days.
“We are very bound by the fact that we just don’t have many air-conditioned spaces,” she said.
Emergency planners in King County, which includes Seattle, hit similar obstacles. Emergency Management Director Brendan McCluskey said his team started working with private businesses like Petco to ensure that residents had places to go, even with their pets, to get cool.
The county also had to open its first-ever, 24-hour cooling shelter when emergency managers realized that temperatures were not cooling down in the evenings as they usually would.
McCluskey said the county was lucky that the heat dome happened between coronavirus waves, so it was able to use a shelter originally set up as a place where people with Covid-19 could isolate as a cooling center instead.
“That area was not being used, so we quickly repurposed it to allow people to seek shelter from the heat,” he said.
‘A failure of our entire community’
Back in Portland, Papaefthimiou, who is now the city’s chief resilience officer, also found that the cooling centers were underutilized — something she attributes to a lack of understanding among the community that high heat can be dangerous.
She worries that low-income folks without their own transportation did not want to wait outside in the heat for a bus ride to a cooling shelter or didn’t want to pay for the fare, and so opted to stay home instead. Following the heat dome, the TriMet bus system created a new policy that it would not collect fares from riders traveling to or from cooling shelters any time the state or county issues a heat emergency.
“The people who passed away mostly did not seek help, as far as we know,” Papaefthimiou said. “They just thought that they would stay home and be OK and nobody checked on them. It was a failure of our entire community.”
For this summer, Portland is hoping to engage residents at every level on the importance of heat safety. They are looking to work with community groups to help set up cooling shelters in neighborhood churches or other places where residents might feel more comfortable. The misting stations that were improvised last year will become permanent fixtures at neighborhood playgrounds, too.
City messaging around heat will include not just the fact that heat kills but also reminders that people should check in on their neighbors and family members who may need help.
What’s more, the city has decided that it will activate National Weather Service wireless emergency alerts to personal cellphones during heat waves reminding people of ways to stay cool.
“If you are trapped in a sea of heat, that bus is like a lifeboat, it is the thing you have to get on board to be safe, and you can’t be charging people fare to get on the lifeboat,” Papaefthimiou said.
‘Right to Cooling’
Vivek Shandas, director of the Sustaining Urban Places Research Lab at Portland University, said he believes last summer’s heat dome was a wake-up call to city residents and emergency managers alike.
“I had been working on heat for 15 years, and it was years of talking to folks and getting laughed out of the room when I talked about heat waves because people would say, ‘We will never have heat like that, we have other things to prioritize,’” he said. “Heat never really got much play until last year.”
Shandas said he thinks people will be more cautious in the heat after last year. But while he applauds the city effort to implement more cooling centers in future heat waves, he said he hopes there will be more systematic changes to increase access to cooling in homes.
One such change comes from a study measuring temperatures inside Portland’s public housing units. Several people living in such units died during the heat dome, and now the city and the housing authority are partnering with Portland State University on a project to install temperature sensors in rooms and hallways of public housing units. The sensors will also warn residents when the spaces get dangerously hot.
“Right now we do not have a good system to alert folks about what they are experiencing in their homes — which can often be hotter than the outdoor temperatures,” Shandas explained.
The Oregon Legislature, too, has already taken steps to protect people from future heat events. Lawmakers this March passed a bill limiting restrictions that landlords and homeowners’ associations can place on portable cooling devices. The legislation, known as the “Right to Cooling” bill, also creates a $34.5 million state program to distribute air conditioners and filters to needy residents during emergencies.
State Sen. Kayse Jama (D) said during the heat dome he heard from constituents who said they were trying to stay cool but “afraid of being evicted” by landlords who said window units were a safety hazard if they fell down.
“We needed to act quickly and immediately to make sure that the next heat wave we can save lives and protect our vulnerable populations,” he said.
Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2022. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals.
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