“Protect the Head!” That’s been the motto for a long while where bikes have been concerned. While many of us have been excellent advocates of bike helmets for kids, we’ve been not so great about leading by example in our own homes. How often have you driven down the street and seen someone not wearing a bike helmet? In my town, I’d have to say it is about 50% - for kids and adults. That is not great.
A new study out this week in the journal Pediatrics confirms that helmets are good for kids and adults in the best possible of ways: they save lives! Researchers in Ontario, Canada, examined bike statistics before and after the passage of a bike helmet law in 1995 and found that bike deaths decreased by 52% in kids ages 1 to 15 after the law was in place. This law applies to kids 18 years and younger and has been enforced with tickets and fines. In addition to enforcement of the law, researches suspected better awareness education and the promotion of helmet use were also important factors.
With such a fantastic impact in child mortality from this bike helmet law, researchers concluded that extending the law to adults and continuing the push of public education campaigns is the next step.
According to the Bike Helmet Safety Institute, Canada is in good company world wide. In the United States, there are 22 state laws and 186 local laws for bike helmet use. Internationally, the World Health Organization actively promotes bike helmet use and safety and many countries either have laws in place or are considering them actively. Countries with bike helmet laws in place now include Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Finland and Spain, and most of these extend to adults as well as children. So, the Ontario study reinforces the validity and insight of having these laws in place. They are not just a political move or a wasted piece of paper!
Whether your state (or country) has a bike helmet law on the books, it really is common sense these days that all riders wear a helmet. What I tell kids is very simple.