Helmet science (for real)

Here’s an interesting paper on bike helmet design. Should be mandatory reading no matter which side of the debate you fall on, especially if you like to repeat stories about how a helmet ‘saved [some person’s] life’.

(Note for the record that I’m a skeptic; I wear one when mountain biking but never else, and won’t go on rides that require them, because I believe (and am backed up by real-world data) that biking isn’t that dangerous; that helmets haven’t had much impact on head injuries; and that wearing helmets helps perpetuate the myth that biking is too dangerous to do regularly.)

Bike Helmets Don’t Work, Part 7

Took my stepson to camp at UT this morning (on our bikes); he thinks he left his helmet there last Monday (the last time we rode our bikes there). While I make him wear his helmet normally (it’s the law here), I wasn’t willing to give up the only chance to ride this week (due to scheduling conflicts) just because we couldn’t find it at home this morning.
Coincidentally, today I saw this from England, which was considering a mandatory helmet law for children.

Note from 2005: That link no longer works, but I found an excerpt from the document and include it here now for reference.

EDM 764 * * * CYCLE HELMETS * *03.03.04 Griffiths/Jane That this House notes the substantial disparity between claims made for the efficacy of pedal cycle helmets and their measured effect in real populations; notes that the Transport Research Laboratory has reported the promotion of pedal cycle helmets may lead to increased injury rates; notes that cyclist injury rates remain unchanged following passage of mandatory helmet legislation in several countries; and calls on the Department of Transport to initiate a programme of research designed to establish why increases in helmet wearing rates are not associated with reductions in head injury rates, and why the countries with the lowest helmet wearing rates are those with the lowest cyclist injury rates

Of course, the New York Times covered the fact that helmets don’t seem to be doing anything in the general population, but peoples’ anectdotes about cracked helmets that surely saved their lives continue to win the battle on this side of the pond. Even the Times swallowed a load of credulity by blaming the inefficacy of helmets on everything possible except the chance that a tiny piece of plastic might not be living up to its Herculean billing.