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Compulsory helmet laws

jehannum5jehannum5 Posts: 54
edited December 2012 in Campaign
I know, I know...can o' worms...
Both sides of the debate are very well articulated on this Australian academic website.

http://theconversation.edu.au/putting-a ... uries-1979

http://theconversation.edu.au/make-helm ... ralia-4578

In a nutshell: evidence for the assertion that bike helmets reduce the risk of head injury +1. Good argument for repealing mandatory helmet law +1. These articles changed my view.
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Posts

  • PseudonymPseudonym Posts: 1,032
    yawn...
  • John.TJohn.T Posts: 3,698
    Helmets are good if you can arrange to only have the right kind of accident. I prefer to avoid all kinds. It saves me hurting anywhere else. And, yes, I do wear one. Because I choose to which is the only reason to do so. Racing is a different proposition entirely.
  • bompingtonbompington Posts: 7,674
    Yeah, I don't wear a seatbelt as I choose to avoid all car accidents.
  • John.TJohn.T Posts: 3,698
    bompington wrote:
    Yeah, I don't wear a seatbelt as I choose to avoid all car accidents.
    Most common injuries from cycling are broken collar bones and gravel rash. Helmets are not much use for these.
    Most common injuries in car accidents were caused by hitting the steering wheel. Seat belts have greatly reduced these.
    Wear a helmet if you choose to, not because some hobby horse merchant says you must.
  • GiantMikeGiantMike Posts: 3,139
    John.T wrote:
    bompington wrote:
    Yeah, I don't wear a seatbelt as I choose to avoid all car accidents.
    Most common injuries from cycling are broken collar bones and gravel rash. Helmets are not much use for these.

    But in the gravel rash/collar bone cases did the helmet prevent the crasher sustaining head injuries?

    I've seen 3 bad crashes in the last 3 years where I have absolutely no doubt that the helmet saved the crasher from a significant head injury. In 2 cases the helmet was shattered, in the other the helmet was just badly damaged. There was also a bit of gravel rash but no broken bones. So, in the official stats, these accidents would just be recorded as a rider falling off and sustaining minor injuries.
  • John.TJohn.T Posts: 3,698
    GiantMike wrote:
    John.T wrote:
    bompington wrote:
    Yeah, I don't wear a seatbelt as I choose to avoid all car accidents.
    Most common injuries from cycling are broken collar bones and gravel rash. Helmets are not much use for these.
    But in the gravel rash/collar bone cases did the helmet prevent the crasher sustaining head injuries?
    I've seen 3 bad crashes in the last 3 years where I have absolutely no doubt that the helmet saved the crasher from a significant head injury. In 2 cases the helmet was shattered, in the other the helmet was just badly damaged. There was also a bit of gravel rash but no broken bones. So, in the official stats, these accidents would just be recorded as a rider falling off and sustaining minor injuries.
    This is only anecdotal evidence. I have been cycling since the late 1950s and during most of that time helmets either did not exist or were not much worn. The type of injury seen was no different to today. Evidence from Australia shows cycling has dropped off since compulsion. This will mean less of the benefits of cycling. I have no problem with helmet use as they will no doubt help in some accidents. I am however strongly against compulsion. Present people with the proven (not anecdotal) facts and let them decide. There is too much nanny state already.
  • GiantMikeGiantMike Posts: 3,139
    I have absolutely no desire for cycling helmets to become compulsory. However, having seen 3 crashes where I think that life-changing head injuries would have been likely/possible if the riders weren't wearing helmets, I always wear a helmet because I don't want to have life-changing head injuries or even the risk of them.

    As anecdotal as my evidence is, having actually seen it with my own eyes makes it extremely strong for me to make a decision on (or at least to reinfoirce my existing decision).
  • ProssPross Posts: 27,152
    Don't take a shattered helmet to be a sign that it has prevented serious head injury. They are made of polystyrene and design to do just that on impact. I've generally worn a helmet ever since I started cycling properly in '89 and was the first person in my club using a polystyrene helmet. I used to go without for hill climbs and occassionally time trials. I crashed on one time trial and hit my head on a concrete road but got carted off to hospital with a shoulder and neck injury I also crashed in a road race and landed in a very similar way but that time had concussion in additional to shoulder injuries - it proves nothing. Informed choice with possible compulsion for younger riders is my preference, makes no difference to me as I always wear a helmet these days.
  • GiantMikeGiantMike Posts: 3,139
    Pross wrote:
    Don't take a shattered helmet to be a sign that it has prevented serious head injury.

    Cycle helmets are designed and tested to withstand an impact equivalent to an average weight rider travelling at a speed of 12 mph falling onto a stationary kerb shaped object from a height of 1 metre. Maybe my definition of serious is wrong.
  • ProssPross Posts: 27,152
    GiantMike wrote:
    Pross wrote:
    Don't take a shattered helmet to be a sign that it has prevented serious head injury.

    Cycle helmets are designed and tested to withstand an impact equivalent to an average weight rider travelling at a speed of 12 mph falling onto a stationary kerb shaped object from a height of 1 metre. Maybe my definition of serious is wrong.

    I don't think that means they are designed to stay in one piece whilst doing it though, the impact protection comes from the change in velocity being reduced by the polystyrene compressing in much the same way as crumple zones on cars work.
  • GiantMikeGiantMike Posts: 3,139
    Pross wrote:
    GiantMike wrote:
    Pross wrote:
    Don't take a shattered helmet to be a sign that it has prevented serious head injury.

    Cycle helmets are designed and tested to withstand an impact equivalent to an average weight rider travelling at a speed of 12 mph falling onto a stationary kerb shaped object from a height of 1 metre. Maybe my definition of serious is wrong.

    I don't think that means they are designed to stay in one piece whilst doing it though, the impact protection comes from the change in velocity being reduced by the polystyrene compressing in much the same way as crumple zones on cars work.

    I agree. It also works to spread out the impact across a wider area therefore reducing the specific stress at the impact point. But let's imagine a scenario. I fall off my bike and hit my head on a kerbstone at 12mph. If I'm wearing a CE approved helmet it is designed to dissipate the energy of the impact throughout the structure and deform in a way that it aims to prevent a head injury. I am likely to walk away from this impact. Imagine the same scenario without a helmet. The energy will be taken at the point of impact and dissipated through my skull. I am unlikely to be conscious after this impact and I may sustain serious head injuries.

    My original point was that I have seen several impacts where the helmet was shattered or badly damaged. If the same impact happened without a helmet it is inconceivable that the rider would not have sustained head injuries, and probably serios head injuries. In every addicent I saw the rider was aboe to ride home after the accident, rather than riding to hospital in an ambulance (the recommended action in the event of a significant head impact).
  • I really don't understand why compulsory helmets are not enforced in the UK. Yes - there's lots of arguments about them not stopping ALL injuries etc, but surely if it stops just 1 person getting a head injury it's worth it?

    We moved to NZ over 3 years ago, and here you have to wear a helmet. (Incidentally I wore one in the UK too). The argument that it deters folks from cycling is nonsense ... cycling is a very popular sport here, and it stops all the daft arguments with kids and teenagers about it not being "cool" to wear a helmet.

    My kids just accept that they are not allowed on their bikes without the gear ...
  • Tom ButcherTom Butcher Posts: 7,137
    I don't like wearing one - I accept it may make some small improvement to my safety but I still don't unless I'm racing, coaching or it's an event where it is mandatory. It does put kids off too - if you coach kids the amount you get who moan about it making their head hot or itchy - yes you tell them to keep it on but you know in their own time they aint going to wear it.

    There are a million and one things we could do to protect ourselves. I ate a cream cake for breakfast this morning (daughter baked them yesterday), I am month or so overdue getting my boiler serviced and I rode the kids to school and then rode back down a busy road rather than take the quiet back streets already today - I guess I just like to live on the edge !

    it's a hard life if you don't weaken.
  • GiantMike wrote:
    Cycle helmets are designed and tested to withstand an impact equivalent to an average weight rider travelling at a speed of 12 mph falling onto a stationary kerb shaped object from a height of 1 metre.
    Helmets passing EN1078 are designed to withstand a vertical drop from 1.5m, the helmet & headform accelerate from 0 to approx 12mph by the time of impact. Headforms are used weighing from 3.1 to 6 kgs and are a variety of sizes.
    Pross wrote:
    Don't take a shattered helmet to be a sign that it has prevented serious head injury.
    I don't think ... they are designed to stay in one piece whilst doing it though,
    Yes they are. Helmets are designed to withstand a vertical drop from 1.5m onto a flat anvil and then a kerb shaped anvil. Following the second test the retention system is tested, so the helmet should still be a recognisable helmet at this point otherwise it would fail the test.
  • It does put kids off too - if you coach kids the amount you get who moan about it making their head hot or itchy - yes you tell them to keep it on but you know in their own time they aint going to wear it.

    If ALL the kids are wearing helmets, and they don't get to ride their bikes unless they have a helmet on the complaints stop.

    My kids cycle for leisure (around the roads, and singletrack), and they are also both into BMX racing. The kids aren't allowed on the track without full face helmets (not to mention,gloves, long sleeved shirts tucked in etc). In the last year, I've not heard a single child moan about their heads itching, or having to wear any of the gear ... if there are rules which will not be broken, then they are quickly accepted.
  • Tom ButcherTom Butcher Posts: 7,137
    The complaints stop but presumably the discomfort that made them complain in the first place does not. I've coached BMX and yes if they turn up regularly they will wear helmets without complaint because they know what the answer will be - but go down the park on a Saturday when there is no coaching or racing on at the track and less than 10% have them on - including those that compete.

    it's a hard life if you don't weaken.
  • MattC59MattC59 Posts: 5,433
    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....................

    If you want to wear a helmet, wear a helmet.
    If you don't want to wear a helmet, don't wear a helmet.

    But don't p*ss and whine when you smack your head.
    And how about not repeatedly p*ssing and whining on here about people that have a differing opinion on the subject than you do ?
    Science adjusts it’s beliefs based on what’s observed.
    Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved
  • Tom ButcherTom Butcher Posts: 7,137
    Nice post Matt.

    it's a hard life if you don't weaken.
  • GiantMikeGiantMike Posts: 3,139
    MattC59 wrote:
    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....................

    If you want to wear a helmet, wear a helmet.
    If you don't want to wear a helmet, don't wear a helmet.

    But don't p*ss and whine when you smack your head.
    And how about not repeatedly p*ssing and whining on here about people that have a differing opinion on the subject than you do ?

    Matt

    Have you read the whole thread? If you have, don't p*ss and whine after reading a long thread you think will annoy you. If you haven't, don't p*ss and whine unless you have read the whole thread. [smiley face]
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    Oh dear. I kind of sympathise with Matt: most of the people weighing in on this thread don't seem to have even read the original post, never mind bothered to click through the links - so they just trot out the same old same old.

    The issue under debate in the two articles seems to be the proposition that even if helmets do prevent head injuries, laws making helmet use compulsory may actually have a negative overall effect on health because they reduce the number of people getting some exercise by cycling.

    Even if it were the case that laws making it compulsory to wear a helmet were a bad idea it doesn't automotically follow from that wearing a helmet, of your own free will, is a bad idea.
  • FJSFJS Posts: 4,820
    It's no coincidence that countries that have made helmets compulsory for cyclists are comparatively car-dominated societies where cycling amounts to a tiny percentage of trips made (especially functional non-recreational cycling) like the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, while countries with the highest bike usage (and cycling infrastructure) have the lowest levels of bicycle helmet use (Netherlands, Denmark, Germany). It would be very sad if the UK would follow the lead of car-dependent New World countries rather than high-bicycle usage European countries.
  • ProssPross Posts: 27,152
    FJS wrote:
    It's no coincidence that countries that have made helmets compulsory for cyclists are comparatively car-dominated societies where cycling amounts to a tiny percentage of trips made (especially functional non-recreational cycling) like the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, while countries with the highest bike usage (and cycling infrastructure) have the lowest levels of bicycle helmet use (Netherlands, Denmark, Germany). It would be very sad if the UK would follow the lead of car-dependent New World countries rather than high-bicycle usage European countries.

    That's a very good observation. I was recently on a course about designing infrastructure for cyclists and one of the other course members was a Dane working in Greenland. She asked if it was compulsory to wear hi-vis in the UK as all the cyclists she saw in London were doing so whereas in Denmark no-one does. I don't have the accident stats to hand but I suspect we have more SMIDSY accident here than they do in Denmark despite the garish clothing. She also noted that the London commuters were on far more specialist bikes and generally wearing cycle clothing whereas back home they just commute in normal clothes. Everything seems to be geared to treat the effect rather than the cause in this country when it comes to road safety.
  • dylanfernleydylanfernley Posts: 409
    the pro compulsion lobby would logically have to extend helmet wearing for all pedestrians , in case they are hit by a vehicle, the helmet might reduce head injury, a common one involving cars and people, also there are a suprising number of head injuries to occupants of vehicles involved in collisions so scope there also for helmet wearing.


    me i never go out without full rubberised suit and full face helmet, life is to short......
  • Ron StuartRon Stuart Posts: 1,242
    John.T wrote:
    bompington wrote:
    Yeah, I don't wear a seatbelt as I choose to avoid all car accidents.
    Most common injuries from cycling are broken collar bones and gravel rash. Helmets are not much use for these.
    Most common injuries in car accidents were caused by hitting the steering wheel. Seat belts have greatly reduced these.
    Wear a helmet if you choose to, not because some hobby horse merchant says you must.

    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/cy ... 309109.ece

    It's a no brainer isn't it :?:
  • DesB3rdDesB3rd Posts: 285
    Even if it were the case that laws making it compulsory to wear a helmet were a bad idea it doesn't automotically follow from that wearing a helmet, of your own free will, is a bad idea.

    +1.

    That compulsion reduces cyclist numbers and cycling is a health positive are both fairly well established. Evidence regarding the protective value of helmets is mixed. Thus I can't, without better evidence regarding the second point, favour compulsion.

    (N.B. the danger with anecdotal evidence is always that it ignores the breadth of factors involved; “broken helmet = otherwise equally broken head” seems obvious but is way too simplistic. I’ve noted before that I wear (when required) a hard hat at work and I bang it, i.e. my head, on every damn thing; when I’m not required (arbitrary rules difference, no situation change) to wear it I don’t, & to date my head is wholly scar-free.)
  • Ron StuartRon Stuart Posts: 1,242
    The CTC is perfectly correct in pointing out that we don't need a law that makes it compulsory to wear a cycle helmet when cycling. However they are way out of line not advising the use of a cycling helmets when cycling. Further more I would like to see them take up the challenge of promoting better helmets and the practice of wearing ones that fit and are adjusted properly. How often do we see Mum and Dad cycling with there kids, Mum and Dad without helmets and the kids with but the front of the helmet half way back over their heads ready for the strap to throttle them should they hit anything or be hit on the helmet.
    The list of riders that have had a head injury as a result of a cycling accident but have sustained much lesser injuries as a result of wearing a helmet is growing all the time, I myself have experienced this as I was run down by a hit and run driver. Also 5 weeks ago a rider I know was playing silly whotsits racing for the village sign on a club run as some do when he lost control hit the road head first, broke his jaw, nose and suffered concussion/ brain swell and bleed. Afterwards he was told by the surgeon that had he not been wearing a helmet he wouldn't be here today. The helmet was in several pieces after the crash.
    I ride with some guys from the dark ages that still won't wear a helmet, reason "my dad never wore one and whats more I never have and I'm still here. One guy wears a helmet when he isn't sure of the standard of the other riders he may be with, I have mentioned that it might not be another rider that's the problem but another car/van/lorry/pedestrian but no he only wears it when there are newbie other riders about only. :roll:
  • I think that once a significant majority of cyclists wear helmets on their own accord then slipping in a law to make them compulsory will be a doddle.

    Seeing how many commuters wear them in London I can't see this being far off.
  • essjaydeeessjaydee Posts: 917
    Some interesting reading here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_helmet#Cycling_risk_and_head_injury

    I guess you will always get those for and against, on emotive subjects like this one :|
    I think we all do our own risk analysis before we do anything we perceive as increasing the risk of injury or loss to ourselves and our loved one's, and this covers everything and anything we do. But our individual perception of acceptable risks are completely different.
    I won't go on the bike unless I'm wearing a helmet, period. So if a compulsory helmet law was introduced, that's fine by me. If people chose not to ride a bike because of this, then that's their choice. There haven't been any reported cases (that I know of) where a helmet has caused additional injuries, and if a compulsory law saved one life, surely it's worth it?
    Would be interesting if we didn't have the NHS with free medical care, and if we had to have medical insurance to cover any possible treatment costs, as a cyclist. Bet the policy would stipulate helmet use, or no cover.
  • bails87bails87 Posts: 13,317
    essjaydee wrote:
    if a compulsory law saved one life, surely it's worth it?

    So you'd be in favour of banning all privately operated vehicales (including bikes) from the road? Buses and emergency vehicles only. Fewer people would die, so it would be worth it.

    How about banning bikes completely? Want to pedal? Do it in your living room on a trainer. No cyclist would get run over. Lives saved. Worth it?

    Or how about making life jackets compulsory 24/7, fewer people would drown. So it would be worth it?

    You mention fewer people cycling as a result. That will lead to more deaths (through inactivity, obesity and related diseases) than it would save through people who would have suffered fatal injuries that are completely prevented by wearing a helmet. I can't remember the source, but I remember the health benefits (and knock on savings to the NHS) of cycling were calculated as being 20 times greater than the (mostly traffic related) risks. If you save one life by reducing the number of cyclists, you've killed 20 people who die of something that would have been prevented by the exercise associated with cycling.

    Edit: source: http://www.bikehub.co.uk/featured-artic ... tton-wool/

    I'm not wanting to turn this into a typical helmet debate, but rather to address the impact of a compulsion law . Even if we assume that bike helmets prevent all injuries (and if they do, they why do Downhill racers bother with full face helmets?) then the effect of compulsion in discouraging cycling will more likely than not outweigh the lives saved by helmets.
    MTB/CX

    "As I said last time, it won't happen again."
  • essjaydeeessjaydee Posts: 917
    bails87 wrote:
    essjaydee wrote:
    if a compulsory law saved one life, surely it's worth it?
    This was with regards to a compulsory helmet law for cyclist only. By only quoting this fragment of my post, you have (cleverly?) taken it out of context :|

    Interesting article you linked to :)

    There are no figures or ratios though, that estimate how many cyclist would give up if a helmet law was introduced, or how many who are thinking of taking up cycling wouldn't bother to turn a wheel :!:

    I don't believe it would make a noticeable difference....but I've been wrong before.
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