1. Bicycle Helmets

  1. Bicycle Helmet Use Law
  2. Five Steps to Proper Helmet Fit
  3. Quick Answers to Bicycle Helmet Questions
  4. Warning Against Wearing Bike Helmets On Playgrounds
  5. What To Look For When Purchasing a Bicycle Helmet
  6. Why Do So Many Kids, Teens, and Adults Fail to Wear Bicycle Helmets?
  7. Your Bike Helmet May Not Protect You From a Head Injury

Bicycle Helmet Use Laws

It's officially spring! As we begin to plan for warm weather activities we need to plan for safety as well. Many people will be bringing their bicycles out of winter storage to take advantage of longer daylight hours and warmer weather. A key factor in the reduction of bicycle related injuries is the proper use of helmets.

Key Facts

  • Almost 44,000 bicyclists have died in traffic crashes in the united States since 1932-the first year that bicycle fatality estimates were recorded.
  • In 1996, 761 bicyclists were killed, and approximately 59,000 were injured in traffic-related crashes. Children ages 14 and under accounted for 223 (29%) of there fatalities, making this one of the most frequent causes of injury-related death for young children.
  • Each year almost 400,000 children ages 14 and under are treated in emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries
  • Universal bicycle helmet use by children ages 4 to 15 would prevent 39,000 to 45,000 head injuries, and 18,000 to 55,000 scalp and face injuries annually.
  • Bicycle helmets are 85-88 percent effective in mitigating head and brain injuries, making the use of helmets the single most effective way to reduce head injuries, only 18 percent of all bicyclists wear bicycle helmets.
  • Despite the fact that 70 to 80 percent of all fatal bicycle crashes involve head injuries, only 18 percent of all bicyclists wear bicycle helmets.
  • Nationally, bicyclists ages 14 and under are at five times greater risk for injury than older cyclists.
  • As with safety belts, child safety seats, and motorcycle helmets, the enactment of laws requiring the use of bicycle helmets, along with education and visible enforcement, is likely to be the most promising way to increase bicycle helmet usage. The United States Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) supports the enactment of bicycle helmet usage laws. Bicycle helmets offer bicyclists the best protection from head injuries resulting from bicycle crashes, and bicycle helmet laws have been proven effective in increasing bicycle helmet use.

    Legislative Status

    • The first bicycle helmet law was passed in California in 1986. This law was amended in 1993 to cover all children under age 18.
    • As of September 1997, 15 states have enacted age-specific bicycle helmet laws. Most of these laws cover all children under age 16.
    • On June 16, H.R. 965, the Child Safety Protection Act of 1994, was passed. It requires the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to develop a mandatory bicycle helmet standard.
    • The CPSC published a proposed rule on August 15, 1994, requesting comments on a proposed bicycle helmet standard that includes requirements specifically applicable to children's helmets, and requirements to prevent the helmets from coming off during a crash. Pending issuance of the CPSC standard, bicycle helmet manufacturers are required to conform with existing voluntary performance standards, such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the Snell Memorial Foundation.
    • Cost Savings

      • The estimated cost of bicycle-related injuries and deaths (for all ages) is $8 billion.
      • It is expensive to treat bicycle-related head injuries because these injuries can endure throughout a lifetime
      • Every $10 bike helmet saves this country $30 in direct health costs, and an additional $365 in societal costs. In fact, if 85 percent of all child bicyclists wore helmets every time they rode a bicycle for a year, the lifetime medical cost savings would total $109 to $142 million.
These reports and additional information are available through your State Office of Highway Safety, the NHTSA Regional Office serving your state, or from NHTSA Headquarters, Traffic Safety Programs, NHT-15, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington D.C. 20590, 202-366-1739.

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Warning Against Wearing Bike Helmets On Playgrounds

For car shoppers who rate safety highly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and AAA have cooperated to produce a safety guide. You can order a free copy of the brochure "Shopping for a Safer Car" by calling 1-888-DASH-2-DOT, or look for the information online at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov

NHTSA is the Federal government agency responsible for reducing deaths, injuries, and economic losses caused by motor vehicle crashes. The agency sets and enforces traffic safety performance standards for motor vehicles, and conducts crash testing to determine how well different models protect passengers.

Another source for information about the relative safety of individual models is the Highway Loss Data Insitiute, whose web site at http://www.carsafety.org provides data on injury claims, repair costs, and theft.

This document was last updated on November 3, 1999.

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Why Do So Many Kids, Teens, and Adults Fail to Wear Bicycle Helmets?

Bicycling is a great way for your child or teen (or you) to enjoy physical activity, but bicycling isn't without risks: head injuries occur in 31% to 65T of bicycle accidents, and up to 6% of people in bike accidents die. Although bicycle helmets have been shown to significantly reduce the incidence of head injuries, many kids, teens, and adults neglect to wear them while riding.

Researchers from the May Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, designed a survey to collect information about how often kids, teens, and adults wore bicycle helmets and their reasons for wearing them or not wearing them. Children in grades 2 through 12 at three local schools and people we were riding on local paved bicycle trails were invited to participate; 2,424 surveys were completed and analyzed. Survey participants were asked how frequently they wore a bicycle helmet, and if they didn't wear a helmet, they were asked to give reasons why. Children who were surveyed were also asked whether their parents wore bicycle helmets. Both adults and children were asked how much protection from injury they thought the helmet provided.

Of the 7- to 10-year olds surveyed, 44% reported using helmets and of the 11- to 19- year olds, only 31% reported using helmets, making adolescents one of the age groups with the lowest helmet use. In children, the more often they rode their bikes, the more likely they were to wear helmets. Children and teens identified many reasons for why they didn't wear helmets, such as helmets made them too hot or uncomfortable, they didn't need one, they didn't own one, or they forgot it.

Both children and teens said that most of their friends did not wear a helmet or wore one only sometimes. Although almost 24% of the children said that their parents always wore helmets, almost 30% of the children reported that their parents never wore helmets and more than 19% reported that their parents only wore helmets sometimes. Children who said that their parents or friends wore helmets were much more likely to wear helmets themselves, and almost 77% of children believed that helmets provided significant protection from head injury. However, despite the fact that 66% of adults and 44% of adolescents believed that helmets provided great protection from head injury, a majority in each age group stated that riding without a helmet posed only a slight risk of injury.

What This Means to You: In bicycle accidents, only 1% to 4% of people wearing helmets sustain head injuries, compared to 11% to 22T of people who don't. Parental and peer example plays an important role in encouraging children to wear helmets. When you ride a bike, always wear a properly fitted, comfortable helmet and require your children to do the same, whether they are riding with you, with friends, or alone.

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Your Bike Helmet May Not Protect You From a Head Injury

Bike helmets carry the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission safety tests seal of approval on ALL helmets made in the U.S. The CPSC does not test the helmets themselves. The manufacturers are on their own to test their helmets by the standards. The manufacturers should test for: shock absorbency, strap and buckle strength, and roll-off resistance.

Good Housekeeping recently tested all helmets with CPSC seals and many brands failed the tests. They have contacted the CPSC and they are now confirming these tests. A recall is planned which will involve one-fourth of a million helmets.

There are plenty of safe helmets on the market today, please review www.goodhousekeeping.com to check on your specific helmet for safety and possible recall.

Continue to wear your helmet until a safe one can be purchased, because it's better than no wearing one at all.

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