I want to save your life.

When you get on your motorcycle, take the time to buckle a helmet on. I did, or I would be either severely brain-damaged or dead.

I wasn’t paying attention, and after 40 years of riding, I did the unthinkable. I caused my own accident. I swore to myself this would never happen, but it did.

No cars or pedestrians ­— just me making a stupid mistake. I had to hit the brakes hard, and my bike went down.

A little lesson in physics here: When your shoulder hits the ground, your body stops. Your head doesn’t. The inertia from the fall is transferred to your head. When I heard the sickening thump of my helmet on asphalt, I knew I had been spared significant brain damage or death.

I could feel the helmet liner compress. I remember thinking: “So this is how a helmet works.” The liner slowed my head down and cushioned it from the whiplash effect of a 750-pound motorcycle throwing me sideways. The result was a wounded shoulder and hurt pride. My head? Nothing more than a stiff neck.

When you watch someone die in an accident that the rider could have walked away from, the memory never goes away. I have two friends who died doing less than 10 miles an hour. One was sand ­— the bane of bikers. The other was kissing the curb due to lack of attention. Both could have been a walkaway with some serious swearing. No helmet, no life. Simple as that.

I have seen a situation where everyone thought the rider was dead. He was doing a wheelie on Lake Street. The woman who pulled out in front of him never saw his headlight ­— it was aimed into the sky. He slammed on the brakes, his bike went over and he went head first into the car’s wheel well. Knocked his shoes off.

He was wearing a helmet. When he got up, all were shocked. I got to him and asked if he was OK. Eyes big as saucers and sweat pouring down. Classic shock. I got him to the curb and sat him down. His arm was peeled down to the bone. A small price to pay for what would have been a fatal mistake for the wind-in-the-hair crowd.

Things happen, and most riders know it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.” I consider myself a very cautious rider, but it finally happened to me.

Don’t ride without a helmet. To those who wear shorts and sandals on scooters: 10 miles per hour can kill you just as fast as 90. Put on a helmet and leathers and you, too, might pick yourself up and swear like a sailor.


Darrell Brandt lives in Golden Valley.