Your bike helmet law is stupid and pointless, study concludes

Adding fuel to an argument that will never, ever end, the Journal of British Medicine has published a Canadian study this week concluding that bike helmet laws do roughly fuck all to reduce head injuries.

That’s not to say that the helmet itself doesn’t reduce the risk of head injury, as noted by researchers at the University of Toronto.

But, they conclude:

“…  in the Canadian context of existing safety campaigns, improvements to the cycling infrastructure, and the passive uptake of helmets, the incremental contribution of provincial helmet legislation to reduce hospital admissions for head injuries seems to have been minimal.”

Researchers looked at over 66,000 hospital admissions across Canada from 1994-2008. There are seven provinces with mandatory helmet laws, with B.C. jumping on board in ’96.

As of right now, drivers are still not required to wear helmets. 

Is it me, or is there something irrational and discriminatory about that? 

Comments (21) Add New Comment
jessica
A bike helmet saved my life in 2002, but that doesn't mean I think they should be mandated by law. I feel the same way about seatbelts but I would guess that seatbelt legislation probably has reduced the number of hospitalizations for car accidents. Helmet laws are rarely enforced and this may be one reason the stats haven't changed - people who don't want to wear them, simply won't. I do, though.
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J.T.
"...the rate of head injuries decreased by 26.0% (16.0% to 36.3%) in provinces with legislation but remained constant in provinces and territories without legislation."
So, how is that not related to the legislation? If the rate of head injury was already going down as the researcher states, then wouldn't the rate of decrease be constant across the board? Without sufficient explanation why the rate did not decrease as much in the provinces & territories without the helmet legislation, it just seems the researchers are ignoring their own findings...

Nonetheless, indeed this is a law that is rarely followed, and seldom enforced.
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bubbabooey
I'm a cyclist who always wears a helmet. The likelihood of suffering a head impact is simply higher if you're on a bike than if you're in a car. That said, I don't have a problem with stupid people being allowed to fulfill their Darwinian destiny.
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gmo
wearing a helmet is a good idea unless you are cruising the seawall or on some other leisure ride. Legislating mandatory use of helmets is silly. There are numerous activities that are dangerous or bad for your health and we are permitted to do them if we choose - why is it different with a bike helmet?
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Freedom Fighter
Why is it that the Nanny State crowd always ignore the unintended consequences of their interventions? These helmet laws reduce cycling which has negative health implications such as obesity and diabetes, as well as air quality related problems due to more cars. Instead, they use the worst case and unlikely outcome of a head injury to justify their assault on personal freedom.

Let's repeal the BC bicycle helmet law.
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Martin Dunphy
Freedom:

So helmet laws cause air pollution?
Hmmm.
The Fraser Institute claims that organic produce actually kills people because it is too expensive, thereby causing the impoverished among us to avoid fruits and vegetables and be susceptible to diet-related cancers.

Maybe you guys should get together?
Just sayin'.
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powdakilla
Umm, how about while we have publicly funded healthcare, we have laws on the books keeping people from being idiots and hurting themselves. The bikers in this city are the worst, because they suck at riding. Take it from someone with real skill on a bike. You hipster douchelords should rock lids....
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Sara Dean
J.T.: The analysts looked at the incremental effects of helmet use in the context of other major possible contributing factors and found that they could not attribute the decrease ('due to') to the use of helmets in and of themselves. The decreases would not be even across the board (e.g. for instance due to differences in terrain, weather seasonality and daylight, traffic patterns and driver habits, temperature, infrastructure across the different provincial settings. e.g. Vancouver has cyclists all 12 months and when it is dark and rainy whereas Toronto has snow for several 'darkest' months). So apples and oranges. It could well be, for instance, that a province that mandates wearing head protection also just happens to be 'safer' in general so that is what could have led to the improvement in rates, and not the helmets, per se, in and of themselves, notwithstanding the obvious protection function they serve against abrasions and wounds, but not against severe concussion or trauma. 'Head injury' is a broad term. Vancouver mountain bikers go on real mountains unlike Toronto or Regina for instance.

Need to understand each provinces profile of cycle injuries (not just 'hospitalzations'): severity, frequency, road vs off road mnt biking, age, etc.

For the purposes of the issue in question, the correct parameters or values were selected and it was found uncertain as to whether helmet laws could be conclusively credited with injury rate reduction causitively.

I don't bike...but I study 'mandatory life jacket-wearing by boaters' legislation proposals! Some countries e.g. New Zealand have enacted legislation something like 10 years ago so the effects and impacts of life jacket wearing laws are yet to be fully and thoroughly understood. Some unfortunate people in fact do die accidently even while wearing a life preserver. But that is NOT a sound reason not to wear one!

Nanny over the Nanny Staters.
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Bilbo Baggins
It's you....we don't need another intolerant car-hater. Ride your bike, but shut the fuck up about it............
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Michael Watkins
I've been riding with a helmet since long before legislation was put in place or enforced and won't ever stop. I'm a very experienced cyclist.

I used to commute to work in Kits from Port Coquitlam daily. A helmet saved my life when a car veered into me, forcing my body and head into a collision with lamp pole. I walked away with severe bruising and a damaged helmet because it did what it was supposed to - protect my grey matter.

Frankly I could care less if people want to risk brain injury. Go for it dudes.

Me? I like my noggin.
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blah
Freedom Fighter, your logic is baffling. Bike laws cause a reduction in riding, thus causing "obesity, diabetes, and air pollution"????????? WTF???????? It's idiots who choose not to ride because they disagree with helmet laws that cause their own obesity. Diabetes & air pollution??? I can't even begin to disagree with such a silly proposition like yours.
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SavoyOJ
People keep confusing helmet LAWS with with the helmets themselves. Clearly the science shows the laws are useless.

If someone rides fast or on car filled streets then a helmet is a good idea.
If someone rides slowly on the seawall or country lane, a helmet is not necessary.

A helmet isnt going to save someone whose body is run over by a truck. But it may save the lives of car drivers, for whom most head injuries occur.
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Humpty D.
After the heavy-handed law came into effect, I quit riding bicycles. It's now been so long ago that if I were to buy a helmet, my head will probably be introduced to concrete right away on that first ride back.
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get this
@Bilbo Baggins: I do not like your tone or your words. Gas and oil guzzling vehicles kill more life on earth than bicycles. From extraction in oil sands to your gas tank, your luxury car kills. If you weren't addicted to owning your own personal metal coffin box on 4 wheels to drive your special ass around you could be a better person.
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Kitsilano
Seems to me that any law that is Legislated in this Province and Country for that matter is there only because of the behind the scene Lobbyist's...Nanny State is 100% correct...What should be done along with bicycle's and car's for that matter is have driving and riding courses in high school...If you are not from this country it should be mandatory to take driving courses...as it now a person from say China can come over here lease a car and cause as many accidents as they want to other cars,motorcycles and bicycles...leave after being here a year and face NO consequence's...I lived through the 60's and 70's without wearing a helmet...Screw the nanny State...any law that is Legislated is BS and somebody in the government is making money on it..that is a given.
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Rating: +5
Repeal Mandatory Bike Helmet laws.
Helmet laws discourage riding as they make it unconformable and inconvenient as a means of short to medium distance travel.
Helmet laws reduce consumers mobility options limiting them to just areas they can find parking and within walking distance from there - helmet laws are very bad for local business.
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chris Good
I listened to the phone in callers on CKNW on this issue. 99% of the callers favour a helmet law, citing common sense.

I dont live in Vancouver, I ride my bike alot without a helmet mostly mixing sidewalks with the road in fairly traffic free areas. The side walk is a perfectly fine option for bikes, get over it. Id rather have a collision with a Bike/pedestrian, than bike/car. People who ride bikes that THINK their cars, should wear a helmet. Bikes don't belong amongst heavy auto traffic, i don't care how fast you ride.

why do we need to place a deterrent to kids to ride a bike? If you think that the number of kids riding bikes haven't fallen because of the hassle of always wearing a helmet is insignificant, think again. ALOT of kids don't ride because of the helmet thing. Im not justifying it im just saying.
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scott
the problem with bike helmets is that they give you a false sense of security. if a car hits you a bike helmet isn't going to do anything to help you.. and to top it off you have less visibility making it more likely to get hit. i used to ride bmx with a full face helmet and never once even scratched my helmet up..but both my elbows and knees have scars.. less bike riders on the road also means less drivers are used to them also making it more dangerous..to all those smug people thinking there bomb proof with a piece of foam on their heads good luck..
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David
Why not make a statute so people have to wear helmets everywhere. I am certain it will help reduce injuries from trips, falls etc. Then when that's done we can make rules about where we can run, walk, hop and so on. One of the maxims of law is that precautions can do no harm. Well you know what. Keep your bullshit rules to you and your family. You can do whatever you want for your own safety. I will decide for myself like most men have done throughout history. Be responsible for what you do and don't expect insurance and statues to be the remedy for everything. You cannot have freedom without responsibility.
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ch1
Auto accident are the cause of 50% to 70% of all brain injuries
as opposed to less than 1% for cyclists. Commuter cyclists are the least likely to get injured or die compared to any other road user.

The BC government is obviously not concerned about reducing head injuries. Why are they ignoring these substantial injury rates and death rates and focus their on patetic legislation on the bicycle?

A bicycle is the safest, most efficient, non polluting vehicle on the planet.

Shouldn't we be discouraging automobile use in congested cities rather than healthy commuter cycling?

The British Medical Association also pointed out that the health benefits of regular cycling are outweighing the risks by 20:1.

Safe cycling infrastructure in Euroe and the absence of helmet laws do actively encourage commuter cycling.

Another detriment to cycling is cycling sport: Helmets, unhealthy plastic clothing, driving to races and events in SUVs,
massive advertising budgets propagates this perverted form of cycling. These folks are also the stongest promoters of helmets. There are very litlle to no advertising focus on commuter cycling or the healthy lifestyle and happiness it brings.

I think that the BC government is just actively discouraging cycling; just look at the the poor cycling infrastucture in Victoria BC, (the Provincial Capitol) and the obsessive focus on the bicycle helmet by the Victoria Police Department.
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