Helmet believers doubtful after increase in injuries

A helmet advocate researched Canadian provinces with a bicycle helmet law. What he found shocked him. Provinces with a helmet law experienced relatively more injuries.

“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 rate 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.”

Similar result in the US, as reported by the New York Times:

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 reports a similar result:

“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 “

Similar result in Australia. Cycling decreased by 40%, the risk of injury tripled.

The most surprising outcome of bicycle helmet laws is an increase in the rate of head injuries.

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