Bike Helmets: To Wear Or Not To Wear

Bike helmets

We all know that bicycling is a great sport or hobby. It’s also a great workout and an excellent source of cardiovascular exercise. However, the question of whether or not to wear bike helmets continues to be debated by many people.

These helmets are made to do one thing which is to help provide safety and protection from head injuries, and most importantly, prevent a potentially fatal one. That’s why it’s essential to wear a helmet every time someone decides to take a bicycle ride.

The Statistics Tell The Story

Bicycle helmets

Researchers at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [1] (NHTSA)found that helmets reduced the likelihood of serious head injury by 60 percent. Additionally, in cases where it was known whether cyclists were wearing helmets, 79 percent of those who were fatally injured between 2010 and 2017 were not wearing them.

The NHTSA also said in a 2018 report [2], that 857 cyclists were killed in traffic crashes in 2017. This is the highest number of fatalities since 1990. Cycling trips account for one percent of all trips made in the U.S. each year, and nearly two percent of all traffic fatalities.

Cyclists who receive a head injury while riding without wearing a helmet are three times more likely [3] to die than those who are injured while wearing a helmet. Bicycle helmets also prevent serious brain injury in 88% of serious crashes [4].

Unfortunately, the risk of concussion is very real for cyclists. In 2013 the New York Times reported [5] that cycling had the highest concussion rate among all sports, including football. Sometimes the effects of a concussion can last for months or even years. Many times, they are permanent.

More Education About Bike Helmets Is Needed

Helmets

Despite these shocking statistics, less than half of all bicycle riders wear helmets. Even worse, the percentage of teens who wear a helmet is significantly less than half.

Riders give many reasons for not wearing helmets. These include the belief that helmets are uncomfortable,  not socially acceptable [6], or are unnecessary because they are skilled riders.

 February 2017 analysis [7] in the International Journal of Epidemiology reviewed 40 separate studies and found helmet use significantly reduced the odds of head injury. They also found the odds of a fatal head injury to be lower when cyclists wore a helmet.

Wearing a bicycle helmet is always a good idea no matter what the law has to say, but bicycle helmet laws might also have an impact on an injury claim after a bicycle-car accident [8].

State Laws Are Inconsistent

bike helmet

No state currently requires helmets for adult cyclists, but just under half of the states require the use of bike helmets by riders under a certain age. In addition, the city or town where you live might have its own ordinance that applies to the wearing of bicycle helmets by adult riders, or by riders under a certain age.

For example, Illinois has no mandatory bicycle helmet laws. However, a number of cities in Illinois (including Cicero, Inverness, and Skokie) require a helmet for riders under the age of 16. Therefore, minors in those cities need to abide by those laws despite the absence of any helmet law at the state level.

For everyone, the results clearly show that wearing a helmet can significantly reduce the risk of serious injuries and death. Therefore, we need to find ways to encourage helmet use and hopefully save lives.

Sources:

[1] https://www.ntsb.gov/news/events/Documents/2019-DCA18SS002-BMG-4-MitigatingHeadInjury.pdf

[2] https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812826

[3] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121015122159.htm

[4] http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/bike/bicycle_safety/index.htm

[5] https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/03/really-the-claim-cycling-is-the-top-sport-for-head-injuries/

[6] http://www.gov.mb.ca/healthyliving/hlp/bikesafety/index.html#video

[7] https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/46/1/278/2617198

[8] https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/bike-accident

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