Monday, June 10, 2013

The Debate Rages: Do Bike Helmets Lead to An Increase in Bicycle Accidents?

Wearing a helmet is generally considered one of the easiest and most effective safety measures a bicyclist can take to avoid a serious injury while riding. The conventional wisdom is that a bicycle helmet reduces the risk of a head injury in a bicycle accident or crash. In many states, mandatory bicycle helmet laws are generally met with acceptance. 
However, there are two sides to every story, and not everyone is convinced that mandatory helmet laws result in a positive outcome. According to a report recently referenced by the library at Northwestern University, the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation asserts that there is not a correlation in the number of bicycle-related head injuries. The Foundation argues that states with mandatory helmet laws have a decrease in the number of bicyclists but do not have a corresponding decrease in bicycle accidents to go along with the smaller numbers of riders. Their argument is essentially that if there are fewer bike riders, then there should overall be fewer bike accidents and crashes on average. The Foundation argues that since states with mandatory helmet laws have fewer riders but no decrease in the number of bicycle accidents, then states with mandatory helmet laws must actually have more bicycle accidents on average. 
Nonetheless, the scientific community has published studies based on strong data that bicycle helmets do, in fact, work. Our May 10, 2013 blog post entitled "Research Shows Helmet Laws DO Work" discussed a decade-long study conducted by Dr. William P. Meehan, director of the Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention and the Sports Concussion Clinic at Boston Children's Hospital. Dr. Meehan's study found that the number of children who died or suffered incapacitating injuries was significantly lower in states with mandatory helmet laws, as opposed to states without mandatory helmet laws. 
Likewise, a 2011 article entitled "The Impact of Compulsory Cycle Helmet Legislation on Cyclist Head Injuries in New South Wales, Australia" concluded that there is a positive correlation between mandatory bicycle helmet laws and a reduction in bicyclist head injuries. In other words, the more prevalent mandatory helmet laws, the fewer head injuries from bicycle-related injuries.
Despite the existing counterarguments, the Illinois Bicycle Attorneys at Keating Law Offices remain strong supporters of bicycle helmets. Time and again we have seen the anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of bicycle helmets. The overall positives the protections a helmet provides outweigh the negatives of discomfort and freedom. A helmet is also a relatively minor financial expense in light of its potential benefits. Therefore, it is difficult for us to understand why mandatory helmet laws alone could deter bicyclists from riding. While Illinois does not have a mandatory bicycle helmet law, we strongly encourage all bicyclists to wear helmets every time they ride. As the old expression goes, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Keating Law Offices is the leading personal injury law firm in the State of Illinois that focuses its practice on representing victims of bicycle accidents and crashes. If you have any questions regarding this post or an issue involving Illinois personal injury law, please contact Illinois Bicycle Attorney Mike Keating at 312-208-7702 or 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All e-mails and phone calls are returned promptly. All initial consultations are always confidential and free.