Importance of Bicycle Helmets Hits Home

September 8, 2008 — By

My 8-year-old
son, Sam, crashed on his bike last week.
Unable to break while going down a hill, he went through an intersection
(thankfully, no cars were coming) and hit the curb on the other side. His bike flew to the right; he went to the
left, sliding across the sidewalk into a hedge.
Although he was fairly scraped up on his face and arms, we are fortunate
that he was not seriously hurt. We
didn’t realize how fortunate, however, until we examined his helmet.

Bike helmet crack

The helmet,
which is now cracked in five places, was compressed 3/8” where Sam’s head hit
the sidewalk. While the picture (left)
does not appear very dramatic, and, as bike crashes go, this was a mild one, the
helmet clearly saved Sam from what could have been a severe head injury. Had he not been wearing the helmet, Sam would
have joined the more than 500,000 Americans who present in emergency rooms each
year with bike-related injuries, 67,000 of which include head trauma.[1]

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway
Safety, of the 700-plus bicyclists killed each year, 83-97% are reportedly not wearing helmets.[2]
Exactly how many of those lives would
have been saved had the rider been wearing a helmet is hard to say, but a New
York study
found that 74% of fatal bike crashes involved head injury.[3]
Additionally, the CPSC reports that, “
Helmets may
reduce the risk of head injury to bicyclists by as much as 85 percent.” [4]

Bicycle helmets are regulated by the CPSC,
which adopted
mandatory standards in 1998.[5] Randy
Sward, who helped develop the standards, is also the founder of the Bicycle
Helmet Safety Institute, which maintains an
with an incredible amount of
information related bike helmets. Included
on the site is a
look inside a testing lab, where multiple samples of each helmet model must
pass several tests before it can be labeled as CPSC compliant, a label that is
required for bicycle helmets sold in the US.

Bike helmet labels
Though it
went unnoticed until after it became an issue, we were happy to see that the
Bell helmet our son wore during his accident has a CPSC-compliant sticker on
the inside. This helmet also has all the
additional identification and warning labels specified by the standard (photo right),
including one that contains a grim reminder that, “No helmet can prevent all
injuries or death.” Nevertheless, as the
statistics above show, wearing a properly fitted helmet is the surest way to
improve your chances of walking away from a bike accident.

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