emergency info sticker

I was setting up a new bicycle helmet earlier today, and after getting the pads in place, I just had to laugh at the included “my emergency information” sticker.

Unlike gift giving season, “it’s the thought that counts” doesn’t apply to saving one’s life after a nasty bike wreck.

Think about it… If you crash and you’re lying there unconscious with a broken neck, do you want someone fumbling around, taking your helmet off? Hell no!

[Note that EMTs will know what they’re doing, but Joe Schmoe might remove your helmet solely to look for this sticker!]

Sure, if you break your leg, removing your helmet won’t hurt. But in that case, you should be conscious enough to remember your name and phone number.

With an older helmet I could almost position the sticker so it could be read through one of the air vents, but “almost” didn’t work out. That would seem like a good idea because it wouldn’t require moving the helmet, but…

Even if you did put the sticker inside the helmet, how long do you think the ink would last? Ever ride in the rain? Ever sweat when you ride?

Right. Nothing you write will be legible after a few rides, even if you had neat handwriting in the first place.

What other options are there… you could stick the sticker to the outside of the helmet! That would be quite stylish, but then the ink would fade in the sun or be washed off in the rain…

I wonder if anyone actually uses that sticker… I doubt it. Maybe that’s why Road ID was invented, since it places critical information at a more readable point, like your wrist or ankle, or around your neck.

Honestly I think this sticker idea is terrible. What if someone uses it and thinks they’re totally safe, but then they’re in an accident and guess what – all emergency crews find is a sticker with ink smeared around on it.

Maybe you could fill in the info, laminate the card, then hang it off the back of your helmet like a ski lift pass? Yeah, now there’s an idea!

(Disclaimer: Now remember, I’m not saying not to wear a helmet, but that the sticker inside them is totally useless! If you plan to carry ID, that sticker doesn’t cut it. P.S. Always wear your helmet.)

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  1. Not to mention, in many newer helmets (such as most of the Giro line) don’t have a large enough area to put them!

    Exactly what you describe happened when I bought my first helmet. I filled the info in, affixed the sticker and not two rides later the ink was so smeared that you could barely tell that I had once written words on it.

    Also thank you for finishing with “Always wear your helmet”. There are many idiots driving out there who we’ve all met… Its dumb and dangerous not to have one (even though I see many without every day).

  2. I am an EMT. The benefits of your emergency contact and insurance information are minimal to your survival. If I find you unconscious, my immediate concern is that you aren’t going to die.

    If you’re wearing a full helmet, like a motorcycle or football helmet, I’m not going to remove it unless you stop breathing and I can’t gain airway access – I can use these type of helmets to help immobilize your cervical spine. If you’re wearing a bike helmet, I have to remove it – I can’t immobilize you with a bike helmet protruding from the back of your head.

    I am going to verify your airway, breathing, and circulation are ok. Then I’m going to do a full-body assessment, I’m going to examine your entire body for life and limb threatening injuries. I’m also looking for medical information – medic alert bracelets or necklaces. I’m going to control bleeding. I’m going to do what I can to assess neurologic injury. I’m going to look for pre-existing medical conditions that may have caused the subsequent injuries: did you pass out from low blood sugar and swerve into traffic? You’re on a bike, so I’m also looking for heat injuries – flushed skin, sweat, skin temp are all signs that can tell me something.

    At this point, I’ve got an idea of your injuries, and because you are unconscious, you are going to the hospital. I make a decision as to how best to move you – probably on a rigid backboard with full c-spine control. My driver and I move you and your personal belongings to the ambulance. The police are on scene, and will be gathering additional information. You are probably fairly well stabilized at this point, so I can continue my assessment. (if you aren’t, I continue lifesaving efforts) I look through your belongings for medications, elicit drugs, and hazardous substances. I look through your wallet for health information.

    At the hospital, I give an oral report to the attending physician about your status, I turn over you and your personal belongings to the care of the hospital staff, and I fill in the blanks in my written report, a copy of which will be attached to your chart. Hospital staff will make a good-faith effort to contact your family.

    The best place for your personal and contact information is in your wallet. If you want to make absolutely sure that your information is available, many pet stores have a machine that engraves dog tags, and usually, one of the blanks offered in those machines is a military style ID tag. Engrave your contact information and wear it around your neck. Military pilots lace extra dog tags into their boots. You could sew it to the waist band of your bike shorts, collar of your shirt, or epoxy it to the shell of your helmet.

    On another note, I think it is important to mention that there is a lot of hype about bicycle helmets, but there is not a lot of data supporting their usefulness.

    Bicycle helmets only protect against certain, impact-type head injuries to certain parts of the skull. They exacerbate C-Spine and basilar skull injuries (and subsequent treatment) which are more likely than, and can be just as lethal, as ordinary impact injuries.

    The available data suggests that helmets protect the average rider from injury in the same way hanging the bike up in the garage protects him. Where mandatory helmet laws are passed, bike use sharply and immediately declines. The number of total injuries drop so the helmet advocates declare victory, ignoring the fact that they just developed a new breed of couch potato that is unlikely to be injured in a biking accident.

    “Its dumb and dangerous not to have one”

    No, really, for the typical on-road rider, it is not. Unless you are wearing a helmet that covers the skull down to the C-spine, (like a motocross, football, or motorcycle helmet) you are simply trading one set of impact risk for another. You can’t predict what type of accident you will have, or what type of injuries you will incur as a result of that accident, but you’re willing to increase the risk of one type to decrease the risk of the other?

    Blanket statements like “Always wear your helmet” ignore the numerous situations where a helmet causes more harm than good. They ignore the demotivation, they ignore the increased risk of heat injury, they ignore the increased risk of secondary injuries, and they motivate people to do something that may not be in their best interest.

    Everyone has heard a story that goes something like this: “I saw a guy who hit his head on the pavement and he would have died if he hadn’t been wearing a helmet” Really? You KNOW he would have died? I’ve seen people take a baseball bat to the head, and walk away with nothing more than a knot. I’ve seen people land head-first on concrete after falling off a deck, and walk away with a bruise. I’m a bit skeptical as to the “horrendous” injury a person would have actually sustained had they not been wearing a helmet.

    I suggest that people really consider the pros and cons of helmet usage, and decide whether to wear on hard data, rather than tired catch phrases.

  3. @me2

    Yeah, they give you the sticker but nowhere to put it!


    Thanks for sharing your EMT perspective and process!

  4. I disagree. As an emergency department social worker at a level 1 trauma center, I can tell you that I always looked in the helmet for patient identification and family notification information when a bicyclist was brought in intubated or unconscious. Too many bicyclists do not have ANY information on them. Clothes are often cut off at the scene of the accident and EMTs often bring in the helmet (to show the ED physicians where the point of impact was) or leave the helmet on the patient (because of probable or suspected neck injury). We have had patients in our trauma center who we didn’t even have a NAME for until some family member started calling hospitals because somebody didn’t come home from a ride. It is not a big deal to have a sticker in your helmet – and it is an easy way to find out who you are and who you want to have contacted in the event of an emergency where you can’t speak for yourself. That said, having a wallet is great too 🙂

  5. @Heidi

    Great comment and useful info!

    I just don’t think the standard helmet sticker is a durable way to carry your information.

  6. The sticker is not intended to stick in the helmet. It should be placed on the frame. Not nice, I know, but certainly better than in the helmet.

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