Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bicycle helmet laws don't prevent injurues: U of T study

TORONTO - Mandatory bicycle helmet laws don’t reduce head injuries, says a study from the University of Toronto.

“In the context of provincial and municipal safety campaigns, improvements to the cycling infrastructure, and the passive uptake of helmets, the incremental benefit of provincial helmet legislation to reduce admissions to hospital for head injuries is substantially uncertain,” the report said. “When baseline trends in cycling related injury rates were considered, the overall rates of head injuries were not appreciably altered by helmet legislation.”

Cycling-related injuries across Canada accounted for 66,716 hospital admissions, between 1994 and 2008.

Cyclists are twice as likely a car occupants to be killed per person trip and 10 times more likely to be injured per kilometer travelled.

“Reductions in the rates of admissions to hospital for cycling-related head injuries were greater in provinces with helmet legislation, but injury rates were already decreasing before the implementation of legislation and the rate of decline was not appreciably altered on introduction of legislation,” the study concluded.

Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto, agreed with the report’s findings.

“The study suggests that there is no evidence that helmet laws reduce head injuries and that is not inconsistent with our views, although we do promote wearing helmets. Helmet laws are not the way to go,” Kolb said.

“There are safety in numbers. The more cyclists you have on the road reduces fatalities and makes the cyclist feel safe. Cyclists need to have adequate space and speed limits (for cars) need to be reduced. We are pleased the (city’s) executive committee is looking at a one metre passing rule (for cars).”

Klaus Mader, with Cycle Solutions bike shop in Cabbagetown, countered that he believes mandatory helmet laws do reduce head injuries.

“Helmets help reduce injuries ... It is a no-brainer. Just do the math. I always ride with a helmet, but a lot of people still don’t ride with a helmet. I even see kids without a helmet and their parents aren’t paying attention,” Mader said.
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