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Bike Helmets
written by Becky Crawford
Bicycle accidents can occur anytime a person is on a bicycle and a helmet will protect the head from a fall when the bicycle is in motion or even if it is stationary. (Please note, when there is a reference to bicycling and helmets it is also meant to reference in-line skating, skateboarding and helmets. The injury factor remains the same for both activities and it is in the interest of article space I make this note.) Many people view wearing a helmet as unnecessary unless riding at high rates of speed but this is false. While there are no specific studies regarding speed and type of injury but here are a few comments from our members at the message boards.

. . . My oldest was just sitting on her bike and it tipped over. She didn't have enough time to react and her head slammed onto the sidewalk. Because of her helmet, it didn't hurt her too bad, but if she wouldn't have had it on, it could have done some serious damage. Serious head injury can happen whether the bike is moving or not. ~ Jennifer

. . . I thought people who insisted on bike helmets were overreacting and being fanatical . . . until I fell on my head. I was lucky not to have a concussion or a fractured skull (yes, I fell that hard). Now, I realize how important they are. ~ Jennifer

Statistics show severe injury can occur if a helmet is not worn. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) CPSC Document #343, "each year, there are about 800 bicycle-related deaths in the U.S. and another half a million bicycle-related injuries treated in the nation's hospital emergency rooms . . . Studies have shown that using a bicycle helmet can reduce head injuries by up to 85 percent." Many towns, cities, counties and states now have mandatory helmet laws. Follow this link to see if your area is included.

There are several international laws as well. In Australia, bicycle helmets are mandatory in all states and territories. New Zealand has a national helmet law and Iceland's mandatory helmet law covers children under 15. Canada has a number of provincial and local helmet laws. Ontario's helmet law is for cyclists under 18. In British Columbia all passengers must wear a helmet as well as anyone under the age of 16. Nova Scotia's law covers all ages, while in Quebec, the Montreal suburbs of Cote Saint-Luc and Westmount have passed by-laws requiring the use of bicycle helmets within their boundaries. In 1997, the Cote Saint-Luc law was extended to cover bicyclists and skaters of all ages.

If your area does not have any mandatory helmet laws, please think about getting some enacted and be sure to ALWAYS wear a helmet regardless of your age and the laws in your town! You never know when it will save your life.

A few other bicycle safety tips from the CPSC:

  1. Protect your head . . . wear a helmet.
  2. See and be seen . . . wear bright colors.
  3. Avoid biking at night.
  4. Stay alert . . . keep a look out for obstacles in your path.
  5. Go with the flow . . . ride WITH traffic.
  6. Check for traffic . . . be aware of traffic around you (intersections, driveways).
  7. Learn rules of the road . . . obey traffic laws.
  8. Assure bicycle readiness. Is your bicycle properly adjusted?
  9. Can you stop it? Check brakes before riding.
  10. Check your wheels . . ."quick release" wheels should be securely fastened.
A note of caution, there have been several injuries to children leaving their helmets on playgrounds due to the helmet getting caught in the playground equipment. Please be sure to use the helmet as specified by the instructions and guidelines. Please contact your local bicycle group or follow visit the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute for more information.

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