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Vroom, Vroooom! PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

punkReader Matthew Kleckner sends us to this site to see a frightening item about superstition in Nigeria. He writes:

Motorcyclists sometimes get upset by laws requiring them to wear helmets, but in Nigeria people have gone off the deep end. According to an article on the BBC website, passengers fear:

...that the helmets could be used by motorcyclists to cast spells on their clients, making it easy for them to be robbed.  "Some people can put juju inside the helmets and when they are worn the victim can either lose consciousness or be struck dumb," passenger Kolawole Aremu told the Daily Trust newspaper.

I admit, I would be curious to see a study comparing people knocked unconscious because they were wearing helmets vs. those knocked unconscious because they were not wearing helmets.  Further, in response to the law requiring the wearing of helmets, some motorbike operators have begun wearing dried pumpkin shells instead. I would also be curious to know why a normal helmet can have juju "put inside it," while a dried pumpkin shell does not raise these concerns.

Randi comments: This may give deeper meaning to the old designation given to stupid people who are often referred to as, "pumpkin-heads." Just a thought... Matthew goes on:

Ultimately, though, I think this article highlights one of the real dangers of woo-woo, which is that it causes people to ignore effective precautions or treatments in favor of abject quackery. Belief in woo-woo now demonstrably causes people to believe that a protective helmet is more likely to cause head injury than to prevent it.

Thanks again for the many years of hard work and dedication to thinking clearly and critically.

As this item clearly shows, Matthew, I take much of my inspiration and information from those folks - like yourself - who care to inform me of the universal invasion of woo-woo and keep me abreast of the battle to bring reason to those who might wish to improve their lives by accepting rational and critical thinking as their way of life. It's never-ending, but it's gratifying to know that one's efforts are appreciated...

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written by hughie522, January 08, 2009
I think some of these people have already been "struck dumb"...
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written by BillyJoe, January 08, 2009
The Darwin Award comes to mind.
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written by ConTester, January 08, 2009
Amazing. And these are the same people who are savvy enough to come up with the so-called “419 scam.” Maybe there’s a connection between proclivities for superstition and larceny. After all, they’re both dishonesties of one kind or another.
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written by MadScientist, January 09, 2009
I like the bike in the photo - wish I had one like that. The pumpkin helmet is really dumb though; you couldn't pay me to wear that thing even if I never started up the bike while wearing it.

This news reminds me of other news related to stupidstition in parts of Africa - namely that albinos are being murdered to provide ingredients for magic potions. Perhaps it is fortunate that the population is so illiterate as well; imagine if they read Shakespeare's Macbeth - they may hunt for "liver of blaspheming jew" (in the cauldron bubble and stew...) next!

(see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7518049.stm)
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written by cwniles, January 09, 2009
Interesting story but the BBC article leads me to believe the majority of the people not wearing helmets are taxi drivers protestesting a newly enacted helmet law not some sort of voodoo fearing denizen of the dark continent.

Although any reason for not wearing a helmet is a stupid one...

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written by Jon Lindsay, January 09, 2009
"pumpkin-heads" = "organ-donors"
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written by movingshadow, January 09, 2009
"And these are the same people who are savvy enough to come up with the so-called “419 scam.”"

The same individual people?
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Sleepy Hollow Redux
written by Holmstrom, January 09, 2009
Perhaps the Headless Horseman was simply a tragic, misunderstood figure hexed by juju.
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written by Die Anyway, January 09, 2009
Damn. Don't you just hate it when you get juju in your helmet? smilies/cheesy.gif
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written by Cleon, January 09, 2009
Well, damn. If motorcycle helmets can be used to cast spells on people, I think I've found a great way to improve my morning commute.
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I can already cast spells!
written by Radwaste, January 09, 2009
...and I bet you can, too.

In the car, I have a switch that applies the Confundus Charm to anyone within two miles. It's called, "Cruise Control". Flick that switch, and no one around you will be able to figure out what any of the controls in their car are for. They will only know that they must immediately get in front of you and apply brakes.

(BTW, the bike in the picture is a Honda CBR600F3, no longer in production.)
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written by DrMatt, January 09, 2009
A dear friend of mine refuses to wear seat belts because he knows of one incident in which somebody was thrown clear of a car and lived. My own preliminary findings are that seatbelts have much more give to them than windshields and steering wheels, and restrain you along less-vulnerable large bones rather than pressing your nose into your brain. But who am I to try to influence his thinking?
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written by BillyJoe, January 09, 2009
DrMatt,

You should.

Put it as a probability: The chance of dying in an accident because you were not wearing a seat belt is MUCH greater than the chances of dying in a car accident because you were wearing a seat belt.

You might just save his life.

(And, hey, if he dies because he was wearing a seat belt, he will never be able to say I told you so smilies/grin.gif)
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written by Trish, January 10, 2009
I know someone who was in an accident & was told later that, had she been wearing a seatbelt, she would have suffered severe damage to her pelvis. That's one example compared to millions where seatbelts helped & not wearing them was deadly.

Q: Who was the only survivor of Princess' Di's crash?
A: The guy in the seatbelt.

I don't know if we should force people to wear seat belts if they don't want to. In the words of comedian Keith Wallan, we'd be letting them "chlorinate the gene pool."
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written by BillyJoe, January 10, 2009
Some cases like the above are not believable. How did they know she would have had severe damage to her pelvis if she had been wearing a seat-belt? It is perhaps a little clearer when the person died because they were trapped in their car because of the seat belt, but I can't help thiking that the situation is being exaggerated by vested interests.

BTW, in Australia it is illegal to drive without a seat-belt.
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written by Trish, January 10, 2009
BIlly Joe, The person who told me the pelvis story said that the cop working her accident scene told her that the position she & her seat were in, and the location where the other car hit her car, would normally result in a broken pelvis. Maybe she was lying, or the cop was lying or trying to scare her, I dunno. The point I was trying to make was that even knowing someone for whom not wearing a seatbelt had a better outcome than wearing one would have, I still wear a belt because the majority of the time, it goes the other way.
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written by BillyJoe, January 10, 2009
Trish,

Yes, sorry, I did get your point, and it was a good one.
And I see you got my point as well.

smilies/smiley.gif

Maybe she was lying, or the cop was lying or trying to scare her, I dunno.
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written by cwniles, January 12, 2009
Just my 2 cents on seat belts, wear 'em. I have decades of experience cleaning up wrecks on the freeways of L.A. and there are no two ways about it. You are immensely safer wearing one.

The only dead person I ever saw that was buckled in and killed was in a fiery explosive wreck that even if belted would most likely have been fatal. I worked nine other fatal accidents (including the guy that got ejected and then beheaded by a metal sign) so do the math, my meager experience shows a 9 to 1 ratio.



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written by Zetetic, January 14, 2009
I know this might be anecdotal but I saw a lot of evidence while working as an EMT a number of years ago. In the many ambulance runs I was on over about a 2 year timeframe, I only saw ONE instance where a driver was killed while wearing a seatbelt. It was a head-on collision with a large pickup truck (driven by a drunk) and the hood of the truck came through the windshield of the victim's car. Turned out the victim was the wife of a judge - the drunk driver got the maximum penalty!
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