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Bicycle helmet arguments

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The arguments for and against the introduction and enforcement of bicycle helmet compulsion are not as straightforward as they may appear.

Pro-compulsion arguments and replies

Very many cyclists hit their heads

Pro

Every year many thousand persons report to hospitals with head wounds

Con

Head injuries can have devastating effects, but  the great majority are caused by falls or traffic injuries of a kind not suffered by cyclists. eg Motorcyclists are often involved in collisions with fast moving traffic, or slide at speed into kerbs or other road furniture. But these are fairly untypical cycle accidents, many of which involve crush or impact damage to the lower limbs.

Science says helmets are very effective

Pro

Several high-profile scientific reviews of the literature have concluded beyond doubt that cycling helmet show superior efficiency in reducing injuries. Template:Ref:Helmets for preventing head and facial injuries in bicyclists http://www.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab001855.html

Con

The reviews have only chosen a very narrow selection of articles on the subject and do not answer the criticism they have recieved. Also in the Cochrane case, the reviewers have themselves carried out the majority of the studies. The other review uses virtually the same narrow choice of studies.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article637031.ece


Template:Ref:Curnow WJ., The Cochrane Collaboration and bicycle helmets. Accid Anal Prev. 2005 May;37(3):569-73. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list uids=15784212&dopt=Abstract

Cycling is much more dangerous than driving

Cyclists need protection just like car drivers

Protection is forced upon car-occupants

If a single life is saved by a helmet law it is worth it

Helmet compulsion for children even more pressing

pro

Children have larger and heavier heads, relatively and therefore more easily get head injuries. Abilities to judge distances and speeds are also less than in adults.

con

True, but amongst children, neither is cycling a major cause of serious head injuries. On the other and physical exercise and freedom to explore is paramount to childrens deveolpement. The scientific evidence specifically on efficiency of helmets for children is no more conclusive than for adults or whole population studies. The frequently cited studies have so many errors. See the appendix of "Cycling and children and young people" by Tim Gill, for a treatise on children and helmet compulsion.

Contra-compulsion arguments and replies

No evident injury reduction in compulsion regions

Cycling has a very positive net health effect

Cycling is the most environmentally viable vehicle

Helmet compulsion reduces cycling

An Australian study, where compulsion has been introduced in some states but not in others, appears to show that compulsion reduces the number of people cycling, and particularly impacts the young and those taking up cycling generally.

Reduced cycling reduces safety in numbers

Helmet compulsion leads to risk compensation

The wearing of helmets appears to lead to cars taking less care and passing closer than they do to non-helmet wearing cyclists.

Helmets do not help against rotational forces

High speed head-injuries (such as those sometimes suffered by motorcyclists) are often caused by rotational forces on the head, This is much  less significant in bicycle accidents.

Strong evidence of net good needed

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