Study: Benefit of cycle helmet laws to reduce head injuries still uncertain

Even with a helmet, cyclists who choose to mix it up with cars are playing a dangerous game.

The media release is below.

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Benefit of cycle helmet laws to reduce head injuries still uncertain

Contribution of helmet legislation ‘minimal’ in context of existing safety campaigns, say researchers

The authors say that, while helmets reduce head injuries and their use should be encouraged, in the context of existing safety campaigns, the impact of legislation seems to be minimal.

Cyclists are vulnerable road users and head injuries among cyclists account for 75% of cycling related deaths. But debate exists about whether or not helmet legislation is an effective strategy to reduce serious head injuries among cyclists of all ages.

So a team of researchers based in Canada examined changes in the rate of cycling related head injuries associated with helmet legislation in young people and adults, while accounting for baseline trends in the rate of cycling injuries.

Between 1994 and 2008, there were 66,716 hospital admissions for cycling related injuries, 30% of which were head injuries.

During this time, there was a substantial and consistent fall in the rate of hospital admissions for cycling related head injuries across Canada.

Reductions were greatest in provinces with helmet legislation. However, the researchers point out that admission rates were falling before the implementation of provincial helmet legislation and, after taking baseline trends into account, did not seem to change in response to legislation.

“When baseline trends in cycling related injury rates were considered, the overall rates of head injuries were not appreciably altered by helmet legislation,” they say.

They conclude: “While helmets reduce the risk of head injuries and we encourage their use, in the Canadian context of existing safety campaigns, improvements to the cycling infrastructure, and the passive uptake of helmets, the incremental contribution of provincial helmet legislation to reduce hospital admissions for head injuries seems to have been minimal.”

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8 responses to “Study: Benefit of cycle helmet laws to reduce head injuries still uncertain

  1. They call it a brain bucket for a reason.

  2. Not clear which cycle this study is covering. Unicycles and tricycles would likely be silly, so I’m guessing the study is talking about bicycle, motorcycle, or both?

  3. I’d strongly suggest wearing a helmet. I didn’t one day in 1967 and woke up about 2 weeks later, with months of blinding headaches.

    • Agreed. I broke my leg in a motorcycle accident. I had a big crash on my Schwinn a few years ago, but no serious injury. The thing both had in common is that they occurred instantly, with no warning at all.

      But this thread is about the benefit of government mandated helmet laws. The report says it doesn’t make much difference. I say government should error on the side of freedom, and get rid of helmet laws.

      My state does not require them for motorcycle riding. Common sense requires them.

      • Coach Springer

        Indeed. I would draw the line on whether research should even be considered,with issues that affect others rather than those that concern individual choice only. Use of helmets, like seat belts or abstinence from smoking, does not affect the safety of anyone else and there is no justification for using law to legislate, define and supplant common sense or personal responsibility.

        On a positive note, I cringe whenever there is any policy story beginning with “researchers say,” but this research – and importantly the surrounding publicity – seems honest.

  4. Arnold Putnam

    My father said this: If you get into an argument with a car or truck, it does not make any difference if you are in the right or not, you’re going lose.

  5. Cycling on the road wearing a helmet adds more to the perception of safety than real protection.

  6. I’m a believer in helmets and not in laws.

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