Do bicycle helmets reduce injuries?

Do bicycle helmets reduce injuries?

At the moment there’s no legislation in the UK that requires you or your children to wear a cycle helmet – and the jury’s still out as to whether we should be forced to wear them. Supporters believe helmets save lives while those against wearing helmets say they don’t make any significant difference.

The evidence

bicycle-helmets-kids‘Over half the cyclists hurt in accidents injure their heads and nearly three quarters who are killed have head injuries,’ says Roger Vincent of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). The organisation cites many findings which support wearing a helmet, including one report which found that helmets reduce head injuries by 85 per cent and brain injury by 88 per cent.

However, results are not clear cut. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission found that although helmet use has risen over a decade from 18 to 50 per cent of cyclists, head injuries have also gone up by 10 per cent. Some experts suggest this is because wearing a helmet gives riders a false sense of security and they take more risks. Others say helmets could even make head injuries worse.

The verdict

Weighing up all the evidence, it seems that while helmets do not prevent accidents, they do reduce the severity of head injuries ‘The most effective way to reduce cycle accidents is to improve the behaviour of drivers and cyclists and provide a safer cycling environment,’ says Vincent. ‘But wearing a helmet is a simple, low cost and effective way to protect you and your children.’

It is probably even more important for children to wear helmets than adults. This is because children are more likely to have simple, low speed falls with no other party involved which, according to the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation, the helmet’s design is best equipped to deal with.

Safe cycling

  • ‘Get your child into the habit of wearing a helmet as soon as possible,’ says Vincent. ‘And lead by example – don’t expect your child to be happy about wearing one if you don’t wear one yourself.’
  • When you buy a bike for your child, buy him a helmet at the same time – one that meets a recognised safety standard and fits him correctly.
  • Remind him that just because he’s got a helmet on it doesn’t meant he can ride recklessly.
  • Before you allow your child to ride on the main road make him take his cycling proficiency test.

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