A new study has shown that laws requiring the usage of helmets when riding bikes fail to improve the safety of bicycle riders. The study revealed that laws requiring bicycle riders to wear helmets do not reduce the number of hospitalizations from bicycle-related incidents. Areas without helmet laws were found to have similar rates of hospitalization as areas with helmet laws.
The study also found that men had higher rates of hospitalization from riding bikes than women, but this is most likely because men are more likely to ride bicycles on dangerous city streets than women. Men also tend to ride faster and more recklessly than women.
Another unique finding was that areas with higher rates of bike riders per capita tended to have lower hospitalization rates. Basically, by having more people ride bikes, fewer riders become injured. This is strongly supportive of the safety in numbers theory.
However, the introduction of helmet laws showed no correlation with hospitalization rates. This even remained true when researchers specifically focused on head injuries. Of course, helmet laws don’t necessarily mean that people will follow the rules. But even when researchers examined whether or not the rider was wearing a helmet, there were still similar rates of head injuries between riders who wore a helmet and those who did not. No connection could be found.
The study did not discourage the usage of helmets. Medical research has shown many times that if you fall and hit your head, it is much better to be wearing a helmet. Instead, the study stated that designing roads to accommodate bike riders is more important than helmet laws. Preventing accidents from occurring in the first place is key. This can be largely accomplished by working to separate riders from general traffic.
Other research has shown that bicycle accidents are less common in Europe, which is known for having more bike lanes than the United States. This is despite the fact that more people in Europe ride bicycles.