Is it time to make helmets mandatory for all cyclists?


Should Helmets Be Mandatory for all cyclists?

Serious cycling accidents often involve cars or trucks or other vehicles. In these cases, cyclists are often struck at great speed and thrown significant distances. It is not uncommon for a cyclist to be struck a second time by either oncoming traffic or other vehicles. 

Single bike accidents can be due to road issues (railway tracks or potholes trapping the wheel), wildlife, cyclist error, mechanical failure, or rider inexperience. Cyclists involved in single bike accidents can still be extremely seriously injured. In all bike accidents, head injury is common as are broken bones.

In Ontario, we require everyone under 18 to wear a helmet when cycling. This is in part based on the idea that children are only just learning to cycle and are more prone to fall. They also are less aware of risk and consequence, and as children they deserve a higher level of protection to be mandated under the law. 

Do Helmets Protect Heads?

Presumably, adult cyclists have been riding for many years and should have a firm grasp of how it is done. Is there a need to wear a helmet? Does it make a difference in a fall?

It is obvious that in a fall wearing a helmet provides an extra layer of protection to the skull and therefore it should at least protect the wearer from some road rash and to some extent from open injuries to the head. What about concussion though? How effective is a helmet?

According to a new article reported in the Toronto Star Dr. Eric Letovsky, chief of emergency medicine at Trillium Health Partners “There’s overwhelming evidence that helmets reduce the risk of head injury by somewhere between 60 and 90 percent, cyclists are very vulnerable to catastrophic injuries.”

The Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians issued a position statement, “Improving Bicycle Safety in Canada” in 2015 calling for mandatory helmet laws in Canada and their position remains the same today. The report examined data from 129 Ontario cyclist deaths from 2006-2010 and found that:

  • The vast majority of cycling deaths are preventable. The review data supported the conclusion that all of the 129 deaths in this Review could have been prevented
  • Cycling deaths are more likely to occur in those not wearing helmets. Those cyclists whose causes of death included a head injury were three times more likely to not be wearing a helmet compared to those who died of other injuries
  • The proportion of helmet use was very low – only 26 percent of those cyclists killed during the study period were wearing a helmet.

Are Helmets a Barrier to Cycling?

In Canada, only four provinces require all cyclists to wear a helmet. Three more including Ontario require cyclists under 18 to wear a helmet. The rest don’t require them at all.  

Cycling advocates do not agree about helmets. Some advocate for helmets and safety, while others argue the helmets are a barrier to cycling uptake. 

Helmets also become a racial issue. Some studies show that helmet laws may be applied differentially. In Seattle for example, of 1667 helmet infractions Black cyclists were three times more likely to get a ticket than White cyclists.

What should you do if you're hurt seriously in a cycling accident?

If you have been seriously injured in a cycling accident whether another vehicle is involved or not you may be eligible for accident benefits and you should contact the experienced lawyers at Deutschmann Personal Injury and Disability Law today. Use our online form or call now 1.866.414.4878


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