Do mandatory bike helmet laws reduce injuries? When bicyclists are involved in accidents in California, they are much likelier to suffer from severe brain trauma and head injuries than are motor vehicle occupants. Without helmets, cyclists do not have protection from the environment around them when they strike their heads in accidents. This leaves them with a greater risk of suffering from serious injuries or dying in collisions with motor vehicles.
While California has a law mandating that bicyclists under a certain age wear helmets whenever they ride bicycles, it does not mandate that adult cyclists wear helmets. There are proponents and opponents of mandatory bicycle helmet legislation, and both sides have a number of valid points to consider. Regardless of what the law is, bicycle helmets are important safety equipment that Los Angeles personal injury attorneys believe that all cyclists should use every time that they ride their bicycles. Helmets provide the remaining line of defense to suffering from serious brain injuries when people are struck by vehicles or when they have other types of cycling accidents.
California’s bicycle helmet law
Under California Vehicle Code 21212(a), bicyclists in the state who are under the age of 18 must wear bicycle helmets when they are riding bicycles on bicycle paths or trails. They must also use them on all public roadways in the state. The helmets must meet the safety standards that are outlined by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission or the American Society for Testing and Materials.In addition to bicyclists, minors who ride bicycles while sitting in attached trailers or restraining seats must also wear helmets. Riders who are over the age of majority are not required to wear helmets in California, however. There are arguments against passing legislation to mandate helmet use by bicyclists regardless of their ages as well as for passing such legislation. (NOTE: For a more complete discussion of these and other important laws related to cycling in California, click here).
Arguments against mandating helmet use for riders of all ages
People who are against mandatory bicycle helmet laws point to several different factors. They argue that mandating helmet use decreases the number of people who ride bicycles. They also argue that mandatory helmet laws decrease participation in various public bike-share programs because people would need to carry helmets around with them in order to ride. Another problem that has been identified by opponents of mandatory helmet legislation is that when such laws are passed, the perception of cycling becomes that it is an inherently dangerous activity. One study found that mandatory helmet use laws discourage bicyclists who are safer riders from riding while those who are likelier to take risks may ride.
Arguments for mandatory bicycle helmet laws for riders of all ages
Proponents of mandatory bicycle helmet laws argue that helmet use increases safety and reduces the risk of injuries. Bicyclists who are hit by motorists have a higher risk of suffering traumatic brain injuries than do people who are occupying motor vehicles. Helmets operate as a last line of defense against injuries. While they may not reduce the incidence of accidents, bicycle helmets do reduce the risk of severe head trauma when an accident occurs. A 1989 study that was completed by researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention Center showed an 85 percent reduction in injuries with helmet use, but that study has since been found to have been flawed. A later study that was conducted in 2009 found that cyclists who wear helmets have a reduction in their risk of suffering severe head injuries and trauma of 68 to 88 percent.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, head injuries are the leading cause of severe injuries to bicyclists who are involved in accidents. The organization found that wearing helmets reduces the risk of suffering from head injuries by more than 50 percent. The IIHS reports that 720 bicyclists were killed in accidents in 2014. Of that number, 429 were not wearing helmets at the time of their accidents, accounting for 60 percent of the fatalities that occurred during that year.
Contact a bicycle accident attorney
Even though the law in California does not mandate that older bicyclists wear helmets, it is smart for people to choose to do so. If they are hit by vehicles or are otherwise involved in bicycle accidents, their helmets may protect them from suffering severe brain trauma and potentially debilitating, lifelong conditions. If you have been seriously injured in a bicycle collision through no fault of your own, you may need to get the help of an experienced personal injury attorney. A lawyer may help to explain the rights that you have in your case, and if he or she agrees to represent you, he or she may advocate for you to recover the maximum amount of compensation to fairly cover all of your losses.