Lawrence of Arabia, the British Army veteran who helped organized the Arab Revolt of 1916 to 1918 against the Ottoman Empire, was also a motorcycle enthusiast. In fact, it was his love of motorcycles — long after the Arab Revolt — that killed him. He suffered severe head injuries in a motorcycle accident, which left him in a coma for six days before he died.
The neurosurgeon who treated T.E. Lawrence after his motorcycle accident, Sir Hugh Cairns, decided that something needed to be done to help prevent the numerous and fatal head injuries he’d seen caused by motorcycles. The surgeon had seen, in particular, a lot of head injuries suffered by motorcycle-riding military messengers. After studying how to protect riders from head injuries, the Dr. Cairns developed the first motorcycle helmet.
Eventually, Dr. Cairns convinced the British government to require motorcycle helmets for all military riders. By the 1960s, motorcycle helmets had evolved into something closer to what we see today. They had a fiberglass shell with a lining of cork. Riders wore separate goggles with the helmets back then in order to keep the wind and bugs out of their eyes.
Whether you remember the 1960’s motorcycle helmets or not, modern motorcyclists know that helmet technology has improved a great deal since then. The U.S. government maintains motorcycle helmet safety standards that helmet manufacturers are required to meet, and these standards are updated to reflect new safety technology advancements on a regular basis. There’s also the Snell Memorial Foundation, which carries out the safety testing of helmets and released reports about what they find.
Some might say that Lawrence of Arabia’s death was anti-climactic considering his vital role in the Arab Revolt 100 years ago, but maybe it wasn’t. Maybe the fact that his death led to the development of the modern motorcycle helmet was, indeed, his greatest achievement of all. Indeed, millions if not tens of millions of lives have been saved by motorcycle helmets since their invention. Did this great man unwittingly make up for the vast number of lives lost in battle as a result of his military efforts?
Motorcyclists are still at high risk of death — even if they do wear their helmets. If you have been seriously injured in a motorcycle crash due to no fault of your own, a personal injury lawyer can help you pursue a claim for compensation.
Source: Allstate Rider News, “The evolution of motorcycle helmet safety,” accessed March 31, 2017