News Article

Do Bicycle Helmet Laws Prevent Head Injuries And Improve Health?

Home

NEW ENGLAND, Australia – Many doctors believe that enforced bicycle helmet laws improve health, but this view remains hotly contested in some quarters. Experts set out their arguments for and against legislation.

Several studies suggest that cyclists who choose to wear helmets have fewer head injuries than non-wearers. But Dorothy Robinson, Senior Statistician at the University of New England, New South Wales, Australia, argues that there is no clear evidence that bicycle laws improve public health.

Do Bicycle Helmet Laws Prevent Head Injuries And Improve Health?

NEW ENGLAND, Australia – Many doctors believe that enforced bicycle helmet laws improve health, but this view remains hotly contested in some quarters. Experts set out their arguments for and against legislation.

Several studies suggest that cyclists who choose to wear helmets have fewer head injuries than non-wearers. But Dorothy Robinson, Senior Statistician at the University of New England, New South Wales, Australia, argues that there is no clear evidence that bicycle laws improve public health.

She reviewed data from countries that have legalised the wearing of helmets and believes that the data indicate that helmet laws discourage cycling and produce no obvious response in percentage of head injuries.

For example, in New South Wales, legalisation increased adult use of helmets from 26% in 1990 to 77% and 85% in 1991 and 1992. Yet, she argues, the rate of decline of head injuries did not change.

This contradiction may be due to risk compensation, incorrect helmet wearing, reduced safety in numbers (injury rates per cyclist are lower when more people cycle), or bias in case-control studies, says Robinson.

She suggests that helmet laws are counterproductive and that governments should focus on factors such as speeding, drink-driving, failure to obey road rules, poor road design, and cycling without lights at night.

Comment on this article