Importance of Bicycle Helmets Hits Home for WeMakeItSafer CEO

May 8, 2013 — By

Editor’s Note:  This post was written by our CEO, Jennifer Toney, on her personal blog a few years ago. It shows the importance of proper bike helmet fit.  Had her son’s helmet not been worn straight across his forehead, rather than incorrectly tilted back like we see so often, he would have suffored direct impact with the concrete. The foam on the front of his helmet was crushed by nearly a half inch!  Please, check your child’s helmet for recalls and follow these safety tips for ensuring proper helmet fit.

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My 8-year-old son crashed on his bike last week.  Unable to brake 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.

The helmet, which is now cracked in five places, was compressed 3/8” where Sam’s head hit the sidewalk. While the picture (above) 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, my son 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 invaluable website 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 labelsThough 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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