Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Bicycle Helmet Laws

The latest issue of Bicycling Western Australia (BWA) Members eNews had a feature on The Helmet Debate. This article originally appeared in The Age as Helmet law makes nonsense of bike hire scheme in 2010—so one should be able to check whether Mr Rubbo got fined $146 for his protest ride. Also, there is no mention in the BWA article of the cheap helmet scheme whereby cyclists can buy helmets for $5 and, if they choose, recycle and receive $3 cash back.

D.L. Robinson from the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit at the University of New England, Armidale has been a long-term critic of the effectiveness of Australia's compulsory helmet laws. His work is often cited by opponents of such laws so it is worth quoting from Bicycle helmet use four years after the introduction of helmet legislation in Alberta, Canada, a recent authoritative study:
Bicycle-related head injuries caused nearly 15% of all pediatric trauma deaths in Ontario in 1993 (Spence et al., 1993). Approximately 20% of cyclist emergency department visits are for head injuries (Thompson et al., 1996) though head injuries make up 75% of bicyclists fatalities (Rowe et al., 1995). Based on a Cochrane review, helmets provide 63–88% reduction in the risk of head, brain and severe brain injury and 65% reduction in risk of upper and mid facial injury for bicyclists of all ages (Thompson et al., 1999). Results of another systematic review revealed that helmets reduce the risk of head and brain injury between 58% and 73% and facial injuries by 47% (Attewell et al., 2001).
As I wrote last year:
To civil libertarians: I am happy for cyclists not to wear helmets as long as I don't have to pay for long-term hospitalisation due to head injuries. Having had more than one crash where my helmet has saved me from a serious head injury, I know what I'm talking about.

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