That shouldn’t be the question.
An interesting study in mid-May found there was no evidence cycle helmet laws reduce head injuries.
Some key points from the study:
- For Canadian provinces with helmet laws, admission rates to hospitals dropped 54 per cent for young people between 1994 and 2003, the period during which laws were being brought in.
- However rates were dropping in provinces without legislation as well — although, at 33 per cent, not quite so steeply.
- Helmet laws produced little change in adult admission rates, which were low and stable throughout the study period.
- For every province with legislation, the decline in hospital admissions for head-related cycling injuries actually started years before a law was introduced.
All in all, the author of the study concludes the decrease in head injuries after the passing of the helmet law is mostly due to other changes made around the same time, such as bike lanes and awareness of biker safety. She indicated that the contribution of helmet laws, to the decrease in hospital admissions for bicycle-related injuries, has been minimal.
But the study doesn’t mean helmet laws are worthless: there simply isn’t a correlation between just the helmet law and the decrease in injury. As with most things, the band-aid effect doesn’t work. There are many factors at play here that contribute to a biker’s safety.
Here’s a rundown of helmet laws in Canada:
- British Columbia – all ages; fine up to $100
- Alberta – under 18; fine up to $69
- Saskatchewan – no legislation; except in the town of Yorkton w fine up to $5(?!)
- Manitoba – ( just as of May 1, 2013) under 18; fine $50
- Ontario – under 18; fine up to $80
- Quebec – no legislation; even though as mentioned in a previous blog post, Montreal is North America’s premiere bicycle city…
- New Brunswick – all ages; fine up to $21
- Nova Scotia – all ages; fine up to 128.75
- PEI– all ages; fine up to $100
- Newfoundland – no legislation
- Yukon – no legislation
- NWT – no legislation
- Nunavut – no legislation
I think one of the most telling things here, is that Quebec has no enforced legislation and yet Montreal is one of the top biking cities in the world. Which makes sense that the study’s author concludes that bike lanes and awareness of biker safety is key in reducing head injuries.
Bike lanes and awareness of biker safety is something that doesn’t exist in Toronto, and so I urge all Torontonians to wear their helmets.
For my first two years of commuting by bike in the city, I didn’t wear a helmet in the morning because I liked the windblown hair look. I was an idiot. Now I almost always wear my helmet (every once in a while my helmet does end up where my bike isn’t…) and if I’m not wearing it, I feel like an idiot.
So here’s my take, don’t be an idiot. Under 18 or not, your head is pretty important so protect it. And there are so many great and cool helmet selections out there now, you’ll look hip and most importantly, not like an idiot. I have a Bell helmet – and they have a great ‘Artist Series’ I just saw online. Maybe it’s time for a new helmet…
I want to hear you take on helmets.