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Is a Bike Helmet worth it?

01 Aug 2014, Posted by Dayle Laing in Brampton Kids on Bikes, Cycling Benefits - Health, Ontario Cycling

Bike Helmet Research and Brain Injuries:

It is Ontario law that every cyclist under the age of 18 must wear an approved bicycle helmet. Parents or guardians shall not knowingly permit cyclists under 16 to ride without a helmet. (HTA 104 – Helmets) Helmets must be fastened with chin straps. There currently is a fine of $60.00 under the Highway Traffic Act.

According to the Ministry of Transportation:

“The best helmet is one that fits properly, is worn correctly and has been manufactured to meet strict safety standards.”

Look for safety standards sticker meeting the approval of safety organizations such as the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Snell, ANSI, ASTM, BSI, CPSC and SAA, advises MTO.

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MTO indicates that “to provide maximum protection, the helmet should fit level and square on your head. It should fit snugly and not slip when you move your head”.

Research for adults to make up their minds about wearing a helmet

“Cyclists are among the most vulnerable road users worldwide”, reported the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario in the Cycling Death Review for 2006 to 2010. In every death reviewed, they concluded that “all cycling fatalities are preventable”.

As tragic as these 129 deaths were, the Coroner reported that they were “the tip of the iceberg”, since in 2009 alone, there were 26,000 people who visited a hospital emergency for cycling injuries. Despite these concerns, the Coroner urges us: “cycling is an excellent way to achieve the physical activity goals of a healthy society”.

  • “Only 27% (35 of 129) of those who died as the result of a cycling collision were wearing a helmet. Despite mandatory legislation, only 6.25% (1 of 16) of cyclists under the age of 18 who died were wearing a helmet. Those cyclists whose cause of death included a head injury were three times less likely to be wearing a helmet than those who died of other types of injuries.”

The New York Personal Injury Law firm, Dansker and Aspromonte, has a webpage with links to various US documents about helmet use and brain injury that may be applicable in Canada. (Thanks to Elizabeth, Patricia and Rachel for alerting us to this website.)

Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago, cites these ridiculous objections to helmet use:

“It’s uncomfortable and hot. It messes up my hair. It isn’t cool. I’m not going to fall so I don’t need one.”

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2009 reported that, 91% of all bicyclists killed in an accident were not wearing a helmet. Perhaps more significant, since the helmet may not save the cyclist’s life, is the risk of brain damage.

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute reported that “up to 88 percent of these head injuries that resulted in brain trauma could be prevented had the bicyclist been wearing a helmet”.

Proper Helmet Fitting Criteria, according to Rush Medical:

  • “Feel comfortable but snug.
  • Sit evenly on your head (not be tilted back on the top of the head or pulled too low over your forehead).
  • Not move in any direction, back to front or side to side.
  • Have a secure buckle to keep it from moving or falling off on either a first or second impact. So if you are riding your bike and collide with something (first impact), the helmet will still be in firmly place if you then fall onto the pavement (second impact).
  • If it’s for children or toddlers, have a buckle that holds firm in a crash but releases after five seconds of steady pull to avoid potential strangulation.
  • Be easy to adjust and fit properly without a lot of adjustments. And once adjustments have been made, they should stay put.”

MTO adds more criteria for proper helmet fitting:

  • There should be two finger widths between your eyebrows and the helmet.
  • The straps should be flat against the face.
  • The side straps should meet just below the ear making a V-shape under your ear lobe.
  • The chin strap should be fastened snugly with enough room to fit one finger between your chin and the strap.
  • Use the sizing pads provided with the helmet to adjust the fit.

Judging when to replace a Helmet, according to Rush Medical:

“Bicycle helmets are designed to protect against a single severe impact, such as a fall onto the pavement. The foam material in the helmet will crush to absorb the impact energy during a fall and can’t protect you again from a subsequent impact. So even if there are no visible signs of damage, you must replace it.

Finally, it’s important to remember that while helmets are protective, they aren’t perfect: You can sustain a head injury even if you always wear one. That’s why it’s important to further reduce your risk… Watch your speed; always obey posted traffic signs and signals; and be mindful of cars, pedestrians, animals, uneven pavement and other impediments that may cause a collision or fall.”

Cheap versus Expensive Bicycle Helmets Test:

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute performed a helmet test in 2010 on a range of US approved helmets from $10 – $200+. Surprisingly, they found no significant difference in impact studies that would lead to a recommendation based on price level! They concluded:

“The most important advice is to find a helmet that fits you well so that it will be positioned correctly when you hit.”

Helmet Care:

Helmets on Heads gives the following advice:

  • “Be sure to clean your helmet’s shell, pads, and retention system with mild soap, water and a non-abrasive cloth.
  • Do not use chemical or cleaning solvents as they can cause unseen damage and reduce the helmet’s ability to protect your head.
  • Keep your helmet away from extreme temperatures as this can cause unseen damage to your helmet.
  • Handle your helmet with care when not in use.
  • Store your helmet in a cool dry place, and out of direct sunlight.
  • Evaluate your helmet after three years of use.”

helmets on heads_200   Helmets on Heads

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