think people

The young kid on the unicycle was wobbling. This was only a problem because he was riding towards a stream of oncoming traffic on Hamilton Boulevard.

The young kid on the unicycle was wobbling.

This was only a problem because he was riding towards a stream of oncoming traffic on Hamilton Boulevard.

And, as he did so, he seemed to be fighting for control — his feet moving forward, forward, backward, forward — as the cars rushed towards him.

Despite his appearance, the kid felt in control. He wasn’t worried.

It was a different story for the drivers. His palsied bike riding on the shoulder near traffic was a tad unnerving.

But at least the kid was wearing a helmet.

Many Yukon riders don’t.

And that’s a problem, says Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s medical officer of health.

As an emergency room doctor he saw too many frontiersmen who, too proud to wear a helmet, arrived senseless after cracking their noggins.

And there are a lot of these guys up here.

Between 1996 and 1999, of every 100 men who died in the Yukon, 26 of them died in preventable accidents.

“I’ve seen many preventable injuries and also a number of near misses,” said Hanley.

And this isn’t just about recreation.

Current stats on the extent of the preventable problem can be seen on the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board accident board.

Already this year, more than 400 people have been injured on the job.

People call them accidents. But the word suggests they were unavoidable twists of fate.

They usually aren’t.

But try telling a 20-something guy that he’s an idiot to be riding a bike or a quad without a helmet.

He’ll tell you — with a straight face — the things are uncomfortable, hot and that they prevent the wind from blowing through your hair.

He’ll say they look ridiculous.

And so Hanley is working to change the culture, which generally asserts that safety is for nerds.

His approach is to alert people to the risks before they happen.

He’s tapped Robert Conn for help.

Conn’s with Startrisk Foundation, a national organization dedicated to preventing injuries.

He’s also a surgeon who got into the transplant biz by cutting healthy hearts out of brain-dead kids.

So he knows the stakes involved.

“We live in a world convinced that these things happen to other people, not to me,” said Conn.

“This is very much a young disease,” said Conn. “Youth are always taking more risks.

“I don’t think people are ignoring this problem. Most of us don’t see the risk.”

What he’s alluding to is that society is a lot like that kid wobbling towards oncoming traffic on a unicycle.

The good docs want people to consider the inherent risk before they act.

We’d all do a lot better if we heeded their message. (RM)