The Bicycle Helmet Debate is Over. Really.

cyclists wearing helmets photo

guys in helmets

Whenever we do a post about bike helmets, we get a controversy in comments that often includes statements like "Nowhere that has introduced a helmet law or considerable helmet promotion has been able to demonstrate any reduction in risk to cyclists."

Well, now they have. A new study released in the Journal of Pediatrics looked at the death rate in Ontario, Canada for kids on bikes before and after the mandatory helmet law was passed in 1995 and found that it cut the death rate in half.

"If you just look at that, then the average of deaths pre-[legislation] and average number of deaths post-[legislation], there is a significant reduction. ... And it turns out it's a 52-per-cent reduction," said Patricia Parkin, senior author of the study and director of the Paediatric Outcomes Research Team at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.The law only covers those under 18 years old; among adults, who do not have to wear helmets, the death rate rose 5%. Now the authors of the study recommend that the mandatory helmet law be extended to adults as well. ::Globe and Mail

From the Abstract in Pediatrics:
Trends in Pediatric and Adult Bicycling Deaths Before and After Passage of a Bicycle Helmet Law

RESULTS. There were 362 bicycle-related deaths in the 12-year period (1–15 years: 107 deaths; ≥16 years: 255 deaths). For bicyclists 1 to 15 years of age, the average number of deaths per year decreased 52%, the mortality rate per 100000 person-years decreased 55%, and the time series analysis demonstrated a significant reduction in deaths after legislation. The estimated change in the number of deaths per month was –0.59 deaths per month. For bicyclists ≥16 years of age, there were only slight changes in the average number of deaths per year and the mortality rate per 100000 person-years, and the time series analysis demonstrated no significant change in deaths after legislation.

CONCLUSIONS. The bicycle-related mortality rate in children 1 to 15 years of age has decreased significantly, which may be attributable in part to helmet legislation. A similar reduction for bicyclists 16 years of age through adulthood was not identified. These findings support promotion of helmet use, enforcement of the existing law, and extension of the law to adult bicyclists.

More TreeHugger on Bike Helmets with lots of discussion in comments.
A Brain Surgeon on Bicycle Helmets
Smart Helmet: Feeds Your Brain and Protects it Too
Helmets - for whom? Cyclists or Motorists?
Cyclist's Head Run Over By Truck, Saved by Helmet
To Helmet or Not To Helmet; This is the Question

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