The Federal Government instigated in 1989 the nationwide policy of compulsion to wear a helmet, by offering ‘black spot’ funding for roads to the states and territories. All complied by 1992.
In 2009, CRAG made a comprehensive submission to the Prime Minister calling for the Government’s policy on helmets to be based on sound evidence of their efficacy. We (CRAG) said that the prime need was to protect the brain, the main site of fatal and disabling head injury, but that research had shown a potential for helmets to aggravate it.
We also pointed out that cycling declined sharply after helmets became compulsory. Benefits of the exercise for health were lost, but the risk of serious casualty, including fatal head injury, increased compared to other road users. As the policy had failed to serve its purpose, we called for corrective action.
The PM did not directly reply to our submission. Instead, the Federal Government quietly abandoned the policy later in 2009, stating in a letter to CRAG:
“Please note that helmet wearing policies are entirely determined at a state and territory government level and not linked to federally administered black spot funding”.
Despite being the instigator of this policy, the federal government has now disowned it, and refuses to take responsibility to fix it.
The federal government remains responsible for the mandatory standard for helmets. It is supposed to guarantee the efficacy and safety of helmets, but it does not. The standard does not contain a test for rotational acceleration, that would assess whether helmets can aggravate brain injury.
We in CRAG are working to press the Federal Government on the mandatory standard.