Bicycle helmets are the one important piece of safety gear that all cyclists and mountain bikers should consider wearing. Since cycling and mountain biking are largely warm-weather sports, the helmet can look like an unattractive alternative, as it causes heating and perspiration. However, the protection provided by the helmet is worth any small inconvenience. Every sport has safety equipment, and for biking, it's as simple as a helmet.
You don't need anyone to tell you that the main motivation for wearing a helmet is to protect the head and brain. However, determining how effective a helmet is at protecting the head is important if you have any qualms about wearing one on your own rides. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that helmets can be up to 88 percent effective at protecting you from head and brain injury--that's a pretty impressive statistic. A study of New York bicycle fatalities and injuries looking at data from 1996 to 2005 found that 97 percent of fatality victims were not wearing helmets. Further, the Children's Safety Network states that if all children (ages 0 to 14) wore helmets, 212 to 294 annual deaths and 382,000 to 529,000 annual injuries would be prevented.
Due to their efficacy, the NHTSA has called helmets the most effective way of protecting yourself from head injuries in bike crashes. While some may dispute the specific statistics, it should be pretty clear that bike helmets do offer an important protection from head injuries.
Children and Legislation
Most adults have the option of choosing whether or not to wear a helmet. For children, however, many states make helmet use mandatory. The number of states with some form of helmet law was 21 in 2008. It's not simply states enacting this law. As of January 2008, a total of 149 municipalities across the nation had enacted helmet legislation of some form. Consider the law in your state and town when purchasing a bike for your child.
Medical costs are another factor weighing in on the side of bike helmets. The Bike Helmet Safety Institute cites a statistic that estimates the annual direct medical costs due to injuries for those not wearing bicycle helmets at $81 million, a figure which will rise with the ever-increasing costs of health care. Indirect costs are provided at a staggering $2.3 billion per year.
The Children's Safety Network states that one helmet can provide $570 in social benefits. Further, the organization estimates that if 85 percent of children wore helmets during one year, it would save the medical system between $197 and $256 million in lifetime medical costs.
Based on these figures, it's clear that the collective cost savings of wearing bike helmets are significant. It's also clear that the medical issues that can arise from bicycle injuries are potentially devastating, both physically and financially.
Article Written By Joe Fletcher
Joe Fletcher has been a writer since 2002, starting his career in politics and legislation. He has written travel and outdoor recreation articles for a variety of print and online publications, including "Rocky Mountain Magazine" and "Bomb Snow." He received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Rutgers College.