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Helmet Saved My Life
By Dan Molnar
2 December 2013


Dan Molnar with helmet

      Saturday, September 14, 2013 was rainy and cloudy. The moisture forced me to postpone a morning workout on bike. I didnít want to get sick or skid around a slippery corner at high speed. Later in the day, around 7 p.m., the rain was gone and the skies clear. Being only one week from the XTERRA National Championships, I was eager to saddle-up for one last tough cycling session. After this, I had planned to taper-off my training. The XTERRA would be the main race of the season and I had high hopes for it.

      As a competitive athlete, Iíve always strived for improvement. I was on a quest to compete with the worldís best as a professional triathlete. I had been competing in these challenging swim/bike/run competitions for over a year and my goal was to aim the highest.

      With no time to waste, I quickly put on my Epic Sports cycling jersey, cleaned my photo-chromatic sunglasses and checked my tire pressure, brakes and shifter. I went through my usual routine before getting on the bike.

      Thirty-five minutes later I was lying in ditch along a county road, struck by a pick-up truck.

Hospital Stay

      When I regained consciousness, I was in a lot of pain. Itís hard to describe agony. Iíd never been in an accident or had a broken bone: shallow breathing, throbbing head, pain in my chest and ribs.


Dan's helmet - click above photo for larger view

      The ambulance was called by a witness; the sheriff arrived too. They asked a few questions that I only faintly remember. When I was able to move my fingers and toes that made me feel a little better. With an oxygen mask on, I was rushed to the hospital where I stayed the next few days. I was given strong pain killers. The doctors and nurses were so occupied with my punctured lungs, broken ribs, sternum and scapula that it was two days before they noticed a broken finger on my right hand. The multiple fractures added up to eight broken bones shattered into 20 pieces.

Shattered Reminder

      I had plenty of time to ask myself what I did to deserve this. The simple conclusion: I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

      I couldnít begin to know what the pick-up driver was thinking or doing leading up to the crash. But I know it had to be preventable on his part.

      I was riding at the far right side of the road near the shoulder, listening for traffic from behind and in front. I recall seeing the pick-up passing a minivan on a turn where there was no safe place to pass. I thought to myself it was illegal, as the lanes were separated with double solid lines. As the pick-up came out of the turn it was in my lane, a 5,000 pound hulk skidding toward me on my side of the road. The metallic hit from the truckís side was sudden and violent.

      All I can say is that $160 helmet saved my life. Itís now a shattered reminder of how close I came to losing my life. From here on its only job is to show you how important it is to wear one EVERY TIME you ride.

Realities of the Road

      Riders must accept the reality of sharing the roadway with drivers who are not always capable or alert to our presence. While some drivers are clearly hostile to bicyclists, others might be drunk and others simply donít pay attention.

      I had heard and read of dozens of cyclists who were hit on a training ride. All wore helmets. Thereís a reason why theyíre mandatory in every sanctioned bike race the world over. Yet, even as we prepare for the worst, we donít really expect it to happen. Putting on a helmet has always been a part of my riding routine. On this day it was the best routine in my life.

      My bones will heal and the scars eventually disappear. I consider myself lucky. My competitive dream is postponed. But others have not been so fortunate. There are thousands who became victims of an avoidable traffic accident who never left the ditch alive. Wear your helmet!

Ė Dan Molnar is a Fitness and Health Specialist with the United Tribes Strengthening Lifestyles Program

 

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