Friday, December 6, 2013

feds will stop hyping effectiveness of bike helmets

Freewheeler John S has brought to my attention this article from Greater Greater Washington (no, the duplication is not a typo) that says that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will remove from their websites statements that helmets prevent 85% of head injuries.

First, these statements were based on a single study in 1985 and subsequent studies have not been able to replicate anything close to that high number. "Some studies even found that helmets increase the risk of neck injuries".

Second, such statements do little to promote safety, but they discourage bike sharing and other uses of bicycles for short trips (links in this sentence from the original article, q.v.[which means go read the d-mn article yourself]).

Further, there's the concern that people who ride with helmets take risks that they would not take without the helmet on (although I was not able to find actual evidence for this).

Finally, from the article:

Recently, most helmet research has focused on making helmets cool, rather than more protective. Better ventilation and more fashionable designs might encourage more people to buy and wear helmets, but it does not make them safer. Could that be because everyone is assuming that helmets are already 85% effective? Would that change if people thought helmets were less than 50% effective?

Helmet use has become a religion with some riders, with about as much science-based thought and about as much room for persuasion as some people have about religion. I don't always wear a helmet on short rides, although I do on club rides.

A subsequent comment on the original Facebook posting, by Jerry F., said:
  1. Wear your helmet!
  2. Ride like you're not wearing a helmet!
To which I would only add, do the second even when you're not doing the first.

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