Government responds to Helmet compulsion MP

Some sense from the Government, from Hansard: Jim Fitzpatrick is the under secretary of state for transport (he does not to my knowledge type, or do shortand). Mr Bone is an MP who wishes to reduce cycling by introducing a mandatory helmet law:

Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will bring forward proposals to make it mandatory for children under 14 to wear a helmet when cycling on a public highway. [159870]
Jim Fitzpatrick: We have no proposals to bring forward legislation on compulsory cycle helmet wearing. We believe that it is sensible for cyclists, especially children, to protect themselves by wearing a cycle helmet. A 2002 review commissioned by the DfT concluded that, overall there is evidence that bicycle helmets can be effective at reducing the incidence and severity of head, brain and upper facial injuries and that they can be effective in reducing injury for users of all ages, particularly for children. However, the report also concluded that, making cycle helmet wearing compulsory may in some cases discourage some people from cycling, leading to decreased bicycle use. We will shortly be commissioning further research on a range of cycle safety issues, including the use of cycle helmets.
Our regular surveys of helmet wearing rates show that cycle helmets were worn by 28 per cent. of all cyclists on major roads in built up areas in 2004; this compares to 16 per cent. in 1994. The corresponding figures for child cyclists are 14 per cent. in 2004 compared to 18 per cent. in 1994. The wearing rate for teenage boys has decreased from 16 per cent. to 11 per cent. The 2006 helmet wearing rate survey will be published later this year.
While compulsion remains an option that we will review from time to time, it has been our view that, at current helmet wearing rates, making helmets compulsory would cause enforcement difficulties and without greater public acceptance could have an effect on levels of cycling. Meanwhile, we will continue to encourage all cyclists to wear helmets, through our road safety publicity campaigns and advice in publications such as The Highway Code.

We are yet to see the evidence that helmets can be effective, but that does not seem to stop the DfT drawing conclusions that they help.

Comments:

I think the evidence is in that helmets are good for kids, who fall a lot, and don't discourage them from cycling.

On the other hand, adults are discouraged (fear, inconvenience, hairdos) and ride quite safely.

tOM

Posted by tOM Trottier on October 24, 2007 at 01:22 AM BST #

I think there is speculation that they are good for kids.

Evidence is completely lacking, that does not seem to stop people asserting that they are though.

Posted by Chris Gerhard on October 24, 2007 at 02:20 AM BST #

Chris,
"Please review my blog page regarding 'real world' helmet usage and subsequent results of such."
My neighbor's family will not ride without protection, 'injury free' riding makes bicycling truly enjoyable.
As a bicyclist, motorcyclist and business principle, a friend's passing only further convinced me of injury protection!
(This fellow was an riding school instructor and well regarded multiple times national champion.)

Posted by William R. Walling on October 25, 2007 at 05:54 PM BST #

Once again an anecdote that helmets are effective. If they were we would have seen a reduction in deaths and injuries. We have not. I would love them to be effective, I have a lot to gain from improved safety for cyclists, but the numbers just don't add up for cycle helmets.

The only thing they are known to be effective at is discouraging cycling.

Posted by Chris Gerhard on October 25, 2007 at 11:42 PM BST #

Chris,
"Does the fact that I, and others, over these past decades survived multiple incidents damaging or destroying our helmets but NOT our heads indicate anything?" (Notice, I freely admit as being born damaged! :-)
Sadly, I fear a loss or lasting head related injury to someone dear will alter your perspective as did mine.
NEVER depend on another persons 'courtesy' or disputed statistics for your survival while cycling as your are sure to be included within their next reporting!
Interesting aside, the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, clearly an oxymoron, recently concluded their five (5) year study regarding motorcycle related injuries then supplied those results to our appropriate U.S. Government agency.
Over these past decades, numerous states have repealed mandatory helmet laws.
As I can surmise, the U.S. Federal Government is about to REQUIRE Helmet use within ALL states OR Insurance vendors will cease issuing policies within those non-participating states.
Incidentally, injuries and deaths among motorcyclists are reported UP within America.
RIDE SMART, RIDE SAFE!

Posted by William R. Walling on October 26, 2007 at 04:11 PM BST #

Frankly, no. I can point to people who have survived amazing accidents, where had they been wearing a helmet every one would assume it saved them. That they were not shows just how well the human skull has evolved.

The statistics are by and large not disputed. They can't be ignored and in fact are the only way to make an informed decision. There simply has been no observable benefit to increased helmet wearing. Since that is the case bicycle helmets have no overall safety benefit. It's an uncomfortable conclusion to come to, I found it uncomfortable that the helmet I wore was in fact no better than carrying a rabbits foot in terms of protecting me. However when I started to think about it I can see why. A hat designed to protect from a 12mph impact on a flat surface is not going to help much once you are being hit by a car doing 30mph.

Motor cycles are a completely different point. The speeds different, the design of the helmets very very different and the danger to motor cyclists is different.

Posted by Chris Gerhard on October 27, 2007 at 06:04 AM BST #

Chris,
"Personnel at BELL, IMPACT and UVEX (USA) expressed concern regarding your helmet comparison (bicycle vs motorcycle wares) commentary."
Industry engineers, recall BELL and UVEX vend both types of headgear, view head related injury protection different than your evidence indicates.
My blog illustrates the result of a single, FACTUAL (truck vs bicyclist) incident that shattered and displaced the offending mirror but left my head intact, thank you BELL!
'No brag, just 'real world' fact!"
I wish you the best during cycling sojourns, RIDE SMART! RIDE SAFE!

Posted by William R. Walling on October 27, 2007 at 08:22 AM BST #

BELL have an interest in promoting helmets. The facts still stand. No evidence that helmets reduce death or injury on whole populations.

The only thing helmet compulsion does do is reduce cycling.

The biggest problem with helmet promotion is it diverts attention from the real causes of injury and ways to improve safety for all vulnerable road users.

Posted by Chris Gerhard on October 27, 2007 at 09:48 AM BST #

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