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    Why Bike Helmets are Crucial – Unveiling the Truth

To wear a helmet, or not wear a helmet? This is the question many adult bicyclists ask themselves in California. Wearing helmets is only the law for small children on bicycles in CA, as will be discussed. True, all adult and child motorcyclists and passengers are required to wear helmets in California. With bicycles things are a bit different. Whether you’re an avid helmet wearer or tend to ride without one, it’s essential to understand the significance of snug-fitting bike helmets with chin straps, especially with kids who could fall off their bikes or get in a crash.

While it may seem like common sense that helmets provide protection during a bicycle crash, let’s delve deeper into the real facts behind whether they can absorb a crash. Do they truly prevent a significant number of head injuries after striking an object like hard pavement? Do they pose any risks by limiting the hearing of oncoming traffic and street noises, thereby limiting the effectiveness of such industry safety technology?

Why Don’t Today’s Helmets Protect Against Concussions?

There are two types of impact when you hit your head. The first is called “linear acceleration.” This event occurs when the skull hits the pavement or other hard road surface. Today’s helmets do an excellent job of preventing major injury, even death, by lessening the impact of skull hitting pavement, which may explain the decrease in cyclist fatalities over the past few decades. In addition, the second type of impact is called “rotational forces” and is the subject of a new type of helmet testing and helmet.

When you fall and impact your head, a helmet plays a crucial role in mitigating rotational forces. Rotational forces occur when the head experiences a sudden twist or rotation upon impact. Following a head impact, the brain will keep moving inside the skull. This can tear or stretch axons in the brain leading to concussion symptoms. Today’s helmets are not designed to protect against the rotational acceleration that can cause severe concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).

A helmet helps to reduce rotational forces in the following ways:

  • Outer Shell: The outer shell of a helmet is designed to provide a smooth surface that can slide against the ground upon impact. This sliding action helps to minimize the rotational forces acting on the head.
  • Impact-absorbing Materials: Inside the helmet, there are layers of impact-absorbing materials, such as foam or padding. These materials are designed to absorb and distribute the force of an impact, reducing the rotational forces transmitted to the head.
  • Retention System: The retention system, typically the chin strap, ensures that the helmet stays securely in place during a fall. This helps to minimize movement of the helmet and the head, reducing the risk of rotational forces.

By reducing rotational forces, a helmet can significantly lower the risk of traumatic brain injuries. It provides an additional layer of protection by stabilizing the head and reducing the likelihood of severe brain trauma. MIPS is an acronym for “multi-direction impact protection system.” The safety system offers hands-on protection against rotational forces if you fall. In the annals of riding helmets, this is a major advancement.

Wear Helmets or Not – The Head Injury Debate Continues

The debate on bike helmets has two sides and varying levels of support depending on those who pedal. Some individuals firmly believe in wearing helmets every time they ride, while others who exercise either comply with helmet laws or choose to go without them. To shed light on the matter, I’ll refer to the August 2016 statistics provided by the US Department of Transportation. Depending on your point of view, bicycle helmets are vital to avoid a concussion, or you doubt one will make a difference against a large, dangerous motor vehicle.

So one said says the harm will be reduced, with the other saying the forces are too great to matter. Let’s see what the right thing to do is after getting a little education by looking at the evidence gathered in recent years about the challenge of bicycles, helmet wear, armor options, concussions and death.

Facts on Bicycle Accidents, Injuries, and Fatalities

The most recent data from 2015 revealed a distressing increase in bicyclist fatalities on US roads, reaching the highest number since 1995, with 818 lives lost. Additionally, 45,000 cyclists sustained injuries while navigating US roadways. It is worth noting that roughly half of these crashes occurred during daylight hours. Furthermore, an alarming 25% of cyclists involved in fatal accidents had consumed alcohol. Urban areas accounted for 71% of the fatalities, with 56% of them transpiring at intersections.

Head injuries emerge as a prevailing concern among cyclists, as demonstrated by figures compiled by RoSPA. Data collected from hospitals illustrates that 40% of all cyclists and 45% of child cyclists endure head injuries. Furthermore, a striking three-quarters of cyclist fatalities involve severe head injuries.

The significance of wearing helmets while cycling is underscored by a Cochrane review, indicating their potential to reduce the risk of head and brain injuries substantially. According to the review, helmets can provide a substantial 65%-88% decrease in the likelihood of head injuries and a 65% reduction in injuries to the upper and mid-face. Notably, the efficacy of helmets appears to be particularly notable for children. Rigorous tests conducted on children’s bicycle helmets demonstrate an impressive 87% reduction in the incidence of head injuries, with brain injury risks potentially lowered by up to 90%. The estimated reduction in head injury risk for adults ranges from 65% to 88%, as indicated by the Cochrane review.

It is important to recognize that although helmets are highly effective, they do not offer absolute protection against all types of injuries. Cyclists must also prioritize safe riding practices, adhere to traffic regulations, and maintain vigilant awareness of their surroundings to minimize the risk of accidents and subsequent injuries.

To enhance cycling safety and alleviate the severity of injuries, it is crucial to promote helmet use among all cyclists, with particular emphasis on children. Enforcing helmet laws and conducting awareness campaigns can substantially contribute to establishing a safer cycling environment.

Bike Helmet Laws and Usage

Determining the relationship between the use of bike helmets and fatalities is challenging because data on helmet usage is often unavailable for many crashes. Therefore, I’ll focus solely on fatalities where people who wear helmets were a known factor.

In 2014, out of 547 bicycle fatalities*, 429 cyclists did not wear bicycle helmets. Similarly, in 2013, out of 591 bicycle fatalities*, 464 cyclists did not wear bicycle helmets. These statistics remain consistent throughout the years, indicating that a significant majority of cycling fatalities involve riders without helmets. Some cities report even more striking numbers. For instance, in New York City, 97% of cyclists were killed in bicycle crashes while not wearing bicycle helmets.

The Snell Memorial Foundation evaluates the risks of head injuries in various sports. In cycling crashes, over 60% of those killed and approximately 12% of those injured suffered brain injuries. Furthermore, they estimate that 95% of cyclists killed in bicycle crashes in 2006 did not wear their bike helmets at all.

While I could continue presenting facts, data, and statistics, the trend is undeniable. Cyclists who ride without helmets are at a significantly higher risk of severe injury or fatality in the event of a crash. As a bicycle accident attorney, I’m well aware of bike helmet safety, but I was alarmed by the extent of these statistics.

I’m sharing this blog post not to dictate your choices but to provide you with the facts so that you can make an informed decision. This is my first one in serious addressing bike safety, so let’s get into it. Bike helmets should always be used for safety reasons, and you should always use the chin strap. Like a vehicle airbag cushioning a crash, its purpose is to prevent injury for all ages of bike riders.

But it would help if you never allowed body armor to give you a false sense of security. The objects and vehicles you face while biking, roller skating, skateboarding, and walking are a leading cause of death, so pay attention. No amount of scientific literature can make up for common sense logic when it comes to children and bikes on the road, for example.

How to Properly Wear a Bicycle Helmet?

Adjust the straps so that they are snug but not too tight, allowing you to open your mouth comfortably. Make sure there are no twists or tangles in the straps.

Proper fit is crucial for the effectiveness of a bicycle helmet in providing protection. A helmet that is too loose or improperly positioned may not provide adequate coverage or stay in place during a fall, compromising its ability to mitigate impacts and rotational forces.

To ensure a proper fit:

  • Size: Choosing a helmet that fits your head circumference correctly is the first part of the selection process if you intend to avoid brain injury. Refer to the manufacturer’s sizing guide to determine the appropriate size for your head.
  • Level Positioning: Position the helmet level on your head, not tilted back. It should cover the top of your head and rest low on your forehead, providing protection to the front and sides.
  • Forehead Placement: The bottom edge of the helmet should be one to two finger widths above your eyebrows, ensuring adequate coverage of the frontal area.
  • Visibility: When looking upward, your eyes should be able to see the edge of the helmet. The front rim should be barely visible, indicating proper positioning.
  • Strap Adjustment: Adjust the straps to form a comfortable “Y” shape just below your ears. They should be snug enough to hold the helmet securely in place but not so tight that they cause discomfort or restrict movement.

Experts are urging people to regularly check and adjust the fit of their helmet to ensure it remains secure and provides optimal protection. Remember, a properly fitted helmet is an essential component of bicycle safety and can significantly reduce the risk of head injuries in case of a fall or collision.

CAVEAT Over USED HELMETS: Using a used helmet from someone else, even if it’s a friend or a relative, is not recommended for several reasons:

  1. Size and Fit: Helmets come in different sizes to ensure a proper fit based on individual head measurements. A used helmet may not be the right size for you, compromising its ability to provide adequate protection. Each person’s head shape and size can vary, so it’s important to have a helmet that is specifically fitted to sit level your head.
  2. Damage and Wear: A used helmet may have hidden damage or wear that is not easily visible. Cracks, dents, or other structural damage can weaken the helmet’s integrity, reducing its effectiveness in absorbing impacts. Over time, the materials in a helmet can degrade, and it may no longer meet the safety standards required for optimal protection.
  3. Safety Standards: Helmet safety standards evolve over time as new technologies and research emerge. Older helmets may not meet the current safety standards, potentially leaving you more vulnerable to head injuries. It’s recommended to choose a new helmet that complies with the most up-to-date safety standards set by regulatory bodies in your region.

For your own safety, it’s best to invest in a new helmet that is properly fitted to your head size and shape. This ensures that you have a helmet that meets the necessary safety standards and provides the level of protection you need while cycling. But we need to keep everything in context, as no helmet is going to stop a car or big rig truck from essentially running a rider or more people down with fatal consequences.

Both adults and children bicycling are always at great risk when compared to a person inside a car with an air bag and a seatbelt. Accordingly, their clear risk of a head or brain injury is always greater, even when they wear a helmet in pretty much every study we have found. Bikes don’t do the same job as a car in the same type of test, so forget that idea. There are perceived positives and negatives with much room for interpretation that we can discuss in another article over the tested data and studies of note.

Bicycle Helmet Laws and Traumatic Brain Injury

Another difficult, crucial aspect to consider about wearing a helmet is the impact of brain injuries to those not helmeted. Cycle helmet laws aim to avoid or reduce concussions. The worst types are those associated with a traumatic brain injury, or in the end, TBI, and can lead to cyclist fatalities.

Traumatic brain injury resulting from bicycle crashes without safety equipment, including cycle helmets, can have devastating consequences. While our bodies can heal from cuts and broken bones, in contrast, the brain’s healing capacity is significantly limited. And most experts say that bicycle helmets save lives, especially with modern bike helmet testing scenarios. (Source – Consumer Product Safety Commission.)

Traumatic brain injury from bicycle riding can range from mild to severe, leading to various distressing changes. Moderate to severe cases may involve convulsions, difficulty awakening, speech impairments (aphasia), muscle weakness, coordination loss, concentration difficulties, agitation, severe mood changes, altered processing speed and function, and cognitive changes.

It’s important to understand that information about these changes from serious injuries can have life-altering effects. While medical treatments and therapies can improve the situation over time, many individuals will suffer from the lasting impacts of traumatic brain injury from such cycling accidents.

Life entails calculated risks, and nothing is entirely safe. A good example is riding without wearing a helmet. We all take chances daily, but it’s crucial to be aware of the risks involved. If you choose to bike without a helmet, you miss out on the safety benefits. And, of course, I respect your decision not to wear a bicycle helmet despite its the fact it reduces brain injury.

I emphasize the importance of understanding those risks when it comes to injury prevention with riders and linear acceleration. Fatalities and severe injuries are significantly higher for cyclists who choose not to wear a helmet. Bike helmets play a crucial role in ensuring cyclist safety to protect riders and their loved ones who rely on or claim them as a proven breadwinner, for example.

Get a Free Consulutation With A Bicycle Helmet Safety Lawyer

Falling off a bike is no fun, but we can evaluate and argue for compensation from the at fault party, even if it was a negligent helmet maker made your injuries worse. If you have any questions regarding bicycle helmets or have been involved in a bicycle crash, don’t hesitate to contact the experienced bicycle injury attorneys at Ehline Law Firm. Our university-trained staff of experts has a history of winning cases and leading the fight for safety regulations to keep people safer around the world.

Our team is available 24/7 for a 100% free consultation. We can use our training and experience to help you and your family cover the cost of medicine, burial, and other issues surrounding a bicycle crash in California.

Remember, while the choice ultimately rests with you and the sort of lawyer you choose, research shows that when worn properly, bike helmets are essential for protecting the health of cyclists, especially a small child faced with distracted motor vehicle drivers on California roads. Our effective team has supported thousands of clients, and we can help with your case too!

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Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.