why you should wear a bike helmet

"American Family Physician" reports that head injuries cause the most fatalities and long-term disabilities when it comes to cycling accidents. Approximately 22 to 47 percent of injured cyclists experience head injuries, which are also responsible for 60 percent of all bike-related deaths. A study published in the "Canadian Medical Association Journal" in 2012 looked at the deaths of 129 cyclists between the years 2006 and 2009. The researchers found that not wearing a helmet greatly increased the risk of sustaining a fatal head injury. In a meta review of six studies published in the "Cochrane Library" in 2008, researchers found statistically significant decreases in mortality and head injuries occurred in places that instituted helmet laws. An earlier 2007 review of studies on head injury and helmet use published in "Injury Prevention," concluded that helmets provide a 63 to 88 percent reduction in the risk of head and brain injury for all ages of cyclists.
Over half of all head injuries occur in motor vehicles and more people were hospitalized after walking down the street than riding on a bicycle. Consider another statistic: According to, pedestrians are 1. 4 times more likely to receive a traumatic brain injury than unhelmeted cyclists. We can also approach it from the perspective of injuries per million hours from a Risk of head injury per million hours travelled Cyclist - 0. 41 Pedestrian - 0. 80 Motor vehicle occupant - 0. 46 Motorcyclist - 7. 66 In each of these three examples we see that cyclists are not the group at highest risk for serious head injury.


Let's be clear. I am NOT trying to say that studies definitively show that cycling is safer than driving or walking. The studies that are out there give us mixed messages about the relative safety of the different modes of transport. What I am saying is that these statistics raise an interesting question: If we're so concerned about head injuries, why aren't we wearing helmets all the time? Why do places that have mandatory helmet laws for cyclists not have them for drivers or pedestrians? The same suggests that a mandatory helmet law for motor vehicle occupants could save seventeen times more people from death and serious head injury than a similar law for cyclists. Yet, despite the clear threat of fatal head trauma from these other activities, virtually nobody insists that people wear helmets in these situations. In fact, doing so is openly mocked. Consider a sentence from Short of suggesting all teen drivers and their passengers wear helmets, the survey determined that states which maintain the strictest graduated driver licensing laws (GDL) are the most effective in reducing both brain injuries and fatalities among young motorists.


Did you catch that? Despite the fact that car accidents are the number one cause of all fatal head trauma among teenagers, the suggestion that teens wear helmets when they drive is simply brushed off. The passage treats the idea of mandatory driving helmets as completely preposterous. Yet we insist that children wear bike helmets (in fact, in some places, it's the law) despite data that shows kids are more likely to die of head injuries riding in a car than riding on a bike. Children and toddlers on foot are far more likely to receive traumatic brain injuries than cyclists, yet parents who place protective headwear on their walking toddlers are openly ridiculed. In other words, if the reason we are supposed to wear helmets while biking is to prevent serious head injury on the off-chance we get into an accident, then why is it socially acceptable for pedestrians and drivers to go about bare-headed? Why has cycling been singled out as an activity in need of head protection? There's an important caveat to the results of that 1989 New England medical study: It shows that bike helmets may reduce the risk of head and brain injury by 85-88%в but only for those who get into accidents. If we take a closer look at the article we see that both the experiment and the control groups studied are those who have already been hospitalized for bike injuries.


If one were to examine the medical and epidemiological literature on bike helmet effectiveness, you'll find the exact same condition over and over: Studies show that helmeted cyclists who are hospitalized are far less likely to have serious head trauma than bare-headed cyclists that have been hospitalized. But wouldn't this be true, regardless of the activity? Logically, helmeted drivers should also receive significantly fewer head injuries than bare-headed drivers. Similarly, helmeted pedestrians should be less likely to receive serious head trauma than bare-headed ones. But studies that compare head injuries for drivers and pedestrians simply don't exist as there aren't enough helmeted drivers or pedestrians to make a comparison. Science, after all, can only be accomplished on observable phenomena. If no one wears a helmet when they walk down the street, how can we measure the effectiveness of helmets on pedestrians? In other words, one of the reasons we think helmeted cyclists are safer than unhelmeted ones may be due to availability of information more than actual levels of head safety. Maybe that explains why there's no comparable fear of driving or walking without a helmet.

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