Helmet believers doubtful after increase in injuries

Helmet believers do not like to admit that the helmet law was a mistake.  A helmet believer from Canada researched this topic and reports a decrease in cycling and an increase in the risk of injury in provinces of Canada where a helmet law has been introduced.

“A study that compared six-year periods on either side of the helmet laws in the four provinces that have them calculated a reduction in fatalities of 37 per cent and a reduction in cycling of 20.5 per cent, for a net reduction in fatalities of 20.4 per cent. In provinces without helmet laws, there was a reduction of 29.5 per cent.”

Other Canadian studies reports a decline in cycling and an increase in the risk of injury for children.

“Compared to adults who were not required to wear helmets, children’s cycling (<13 years) fell by 59%, with a 41% reduction for teenagers aged 13-17 …

The observed post-law number of injuries – 1676 per year – is 2.37 times higher than would have been expected for the amount of cycling.  In contrast, the safety of adult cyclists (who were not affected by the law) improved.

Thus, far from improving safety for children and teenagers, the risk of injury seems to have increased after Alberta introduced its helmet law.  Similar calculations (Tables 2 & 3), show increases in the risk of head and non-head injuries requiring ER treatment for both children and teenagers, as well as increased risk of head injuries for children, and non-head injuries for children and teenagers admitted to hospital.  In contrast, risks for adults generally decreased.

Unlike cyclists, there were substantial reductions in the risks of injury for pedestrians (Table 3).”

Same result in the US.  Alongside a rise in helmet wearing, cycling decreased and the rate of head injury increased by 51%.  Risk compensation is mentioned as the most likely cause of the rise in injuries.

“The number of head injuries has increased 10 percent since 1991, even as bicycle helmet use has risen sharply, according to figures compiled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. But given that ridership has declined over the same period, the rate of head injuries per active cyclist has increased 51 percent just as bicycle helmets have become widespread. …

the increased use of bike helmets may have had an unintended consequence: riders may feel an inflated sense of security and take more risks. …

The helmet he was wearing did not protect his neck; he was paralyzed from the neck down. …

”It didn’t cross my mind that this could happen,” said Philip, now 17. ”I definitely felt safe. I wouldn’t do something like that without a helmet.” “

A recent study in New Zealand found the same result: a decrease in cycling and an increase in the risk of accident and injury.  Cyclists  injuries more than doubled compared with pedestrians

“The New Zealand Medical Journal research found a 51 per cent drop in the average hours cycled per person from the 1989-90 period when compared to 2006-09. …

Comparing the ratio of cyclist to pedestrian injuries from 1988-91 to 2003-07 showed cyclists’  injuries more than doubled compared with pedestrians

By 2003-07 cyclists had a 20 per cent higher accident rate compared with pre law”

Same result in Australia: a decrease cycling, an increase in the risk of accidents by 50%, and an increase in the risk of deaths & serious injuries by 50%.


The  increase in accidents observed after introducing a helmet law is a serious concern for policy makers.
Can this rise in accidents be compensated by a piece of polystyrene?
It doesn’t look like it, as the rise in injuries indicates.
Even the risk of head injuries has risen.

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One Response to “Helmet believers doubtful after increase in injuries”

  1. steve says:

    From Studies and before-after measurements and polls we know helmet laws reduce the usage of bicycles but how does Safety in numbers work people may wonder.

    1 Direct Safety in numbers effect. A driver who actually is not driving safely around cyclists may well eventually hit one and be penalised and get fined or even have drivers licence revoked as well as insurance costs and legal retribution – they will probably very quickly learn to take more care in future. Obviously the more cyclists there are the less likley it is you will be the one they meet on the road. !

    Secondary effects

    2 Obviously more people riding means less cars on the road which gives immediate benefits for everyone including other drivers by reducing congestion less cars usually means less risk of accidents for everyone.

    3 People who have ridden a bike recently may when driving show greater understanding of other bike rider behaviours when they are driving themselves.

    4 More riders means drivers get used to taking care and sharing the road rather than being surprised when they just see one on rare occasions.

    Wikipeda as a go at here.>>

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