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Bike helmet laws don't make us unhealthy.

  • Author:kask
  • Source:helmets
  • Release on:2015-11-16
That's the advice from Royal Australasian College of Surgeons who say there is no scientific evidence that mandatory bike helmet laws have had a "population-wide impact on health because people don't want to ride". 

By contrast, Dr John Crozier from the college said a spike in the number of head injuries from people not wearing helmets could reduce rider numbers.
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"I cannot imagine a parent saying to their child, 'no, don't wear a helmet, I am sure you will be fine'. I cannot imagine how they would feel getting a call from the hospital saying their child has suffered brain damage from an accident," he said.

Dr Crozier was reacting to a Senate inquiry into public safety laws that has received submissions arguing against mandatory bike helmet laws.

The Senate Economics References Committee inquiry into "personal choice and community impacts" has received several submissions arguing against mandatory bike helmets on health grounds.

One submission said: "Unfortunately there does not appear to be individual AND population benefit deriving from compulsory bicycle helmet laws. While there is evidence of benefit to the individuals wearing helmets, there is also evidence of wider harm to population health resulting from the reduction in cycling."
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Another said mandatory bicycle helmet laws "had a very different impact than intended. They have discouraged large proportions of the community from using their bicycles and most probably have caused a much worse impact on our nation's health by keeping people away from this kind of exercise than they have given benefit by reducing head injuries".

Dr Crozier said wearing helmets saved lives and reduced the severity of trauma arising from bicycle accidents. 

He said 40 cyclists die each year in Australia and another 4800 are hospitalised.

Dr Crozier said since the introduction of helmet laws in the early 1990s there had been a reduction in the number of bicycle-related head injuries.
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"We urge the Government and anti-mandatory helmet legislation advocates to take a more responsible attitude towards ensuring cyclists are not injured or killed as a result of riding without a helmet," he said.

Dr Crozier said if someone came off a bike there was often not enough time to respond quickly enough to protect themselves. 

He said helmets had a big impact on reducing the chance of a serious brain injury. 

"The culture of Australia isn't that of Amsterdam and we still have to protect the cyclist," he said.
Surgeons urge 'more responsible attitude' to bike helmet laws
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He said there was some evidence that motorists go closer to cyclists wearing a helmet and changes needed to be made to driving culture, not helmet laws.

"A metre-and-a-half does matter if you are travelling at greater than 60km-an-hour and driving a vehicle next to a cyclist," he said.

He said the price of helmets had come down and comfort had improved.

"There really is no meaningful reason why they shouldn't be more widely adopted," he said.

Chris Carpenter from Bicycle Network said the Australian Parliament should concentrate on improving bike infrastructure. 

"We reiterated the call for a national bike infrastructure fund at a recent Senate inquiry in July," Mr Carpenter said.  
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"Bicycle Network's community and member surveys consistently show the biggest barrier to riding a bike is the lack of bike infrastructure," he said.

He said riders should also strap on a helmet.

"We are determined to see bike rider trauma reduced and recommend all bike riders in Australia wear a helmet and comply with helmet rules," Mr Carpenter said.