The opening scene of the movie “Lawrence of Arabia” was no less dramatic than the rest of the film. Since it happens within the first couple minutes of the movie, this isn’t a spoiler: The scene shows E. Lawrence at the end of his life, getting on his Brough Superior SS100 motorcycle, riding down the street and crashing. It was long after his many dangerous and heroic deeds in the Middle East, and it was quite sad that his life would end so simply after facing so much danger in his life.
E. Lawrence died in a motorcycle crash after coming upon a couple boys on bicycles in the roadway. He swerved to miss them, lost control and flew off his bike. Six days later, E. Lawrence succumbed to head trauma injuries. These details, of course, were not in the movie. Also not in the movie was the doctor who took care of E. Lawrence after the accident.
Hugh Cairns was a neurosurgeon who treated E. Lawrence. After seeing the man’s head wounds, it motivated the neurosurgeon to embark on studying what he felt was the unnecessary loss of life in motorcyclists. The research Dr. Cairns gathered would eventually inspire motorcyclists to start wearing helmets.
Motorcycle riders have a lot better options for helmets than they did in the days of Dr. Cairns. In fact, it’s believed that the first helmets were nothing more than a leather football cut in half and worn as a hat, then tied with some yarn around the chin. Since the very beginning of motorcycle helmets, the helmet maker Bell has lead the pack in innovation, and it continues to do so today.
So there you have it: E. Lawrence did not die on his motorcycle in vane. In fact, he was doing something he absolutely loved, and his death can be thanked for the popularization of the motorcycle helmet. Wearing one is still the most single most important thing you can do on a bike. It could save your life one day if you are ever involved in a serious motorcycle crash, and very well could mean the difference between pursuing a personal injury case and a wrongful death action relating to the incident.
Source: On All Cylinders, “Helmet Evolution: How Lawrence of Arabia Started the Motorcycle Helmet Movement,” Matt Griswold, accessed Feb. 12, 2016