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Head Injuries From Bicycle Helmet Use

by Contributing Writer
  • Overview

    Bicycle helmets do not always prevent head injuries.
    The assumption by parents of young children and bicycle riding enthusiasts is that wearing a helmet while riding will prevent head injuries in an accident. That line of thinking may give a false sense of security to riders, if they read studies by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) that suggest otherwise.
  • Statistics on Head Injuries

    According to CPSC statistics, head injuries have increased as high as 51 percent since 1991. During the same period, the use of bicycle helmets has increased, while ridership has decreased, especially among young adults. In-line skating and skateboarding are cited as factors for the overall decline of bicycle riding during that time frame.
  • Puzzling Information

    While experts suggest a helmet will not prevent accidents, wearing one will significantly reduce the severity of brain injuries by as much as 88 percent. Not wearing a helmet should never be an option, even though the benefit of wearing one may not be as clear.
  • Theories/Speculation

    Advocates of cycling suggest aggressive vehicle drivers are the culprits, while others blame riders for not wearing the helmet properly. Not knowing the rules of the road, like yielding to cars and riding toward traffic instead of with traffic, may also be a factor. Still others suggest that riders have the daredevil effect, in that wearing a helmet while performing stunts or riding faster will protect them.
  • Prevention/Solution

    While head injuries continue to occur, despite the use of helmets, steps can be taken to minimize your chances. According to Dr. Richard A. Schieber, a childhood-injury prevention specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and the leader of a national bicycle safety initiative, in an interview, told Julian E. Barnes of The New York Times News Service and the author of this article, that "public health officials were realizing that in addition to promoting helmet use, safety officials must teach good riding skills, promote good driving practices and create safer places for bike enthusiasts to ride." Schieber also said, "We have moved the conversation from bicycle helmet to bicycle safety."
  • Bicycle Helmet Laws

    Since 1987, only 22 states, including the District of Columbia, have mandatory helmet laws. Texas, for example does not have a helmet law, but some cities in that state have ordinances enforcing the use of helmets, especially among children. While other states, such as Oklahoma, have laws for people of all ages. Oklahoma City, for example, has an ordinance where anyone of any age must wear a helmet or risk getting a citation. The same is true in other cities with no statewide mandated laws.

    References & Resources