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International Study Finds Risk of Injury Declines Drastically When Bikers Wear Helmets

Thursday, September 06, 2018By Nina Shapirshteyn

Over 60 percent of the people in Norway regularly use bicycles. Because of the frequency of bicycle use, safety for bicycle riders is an important topic of research and discussion in the country. As bicycle use increases in the United States as well, we can learn much from the data emerging from Norway as well as the country’s approach to helmet use.

The Incidence of Injury and Death Without Helmet Use

New research from the Norwegian Council for Road Safety found that over half of Norwegians who ride bicycles do not wear helmets. Meanwhile, injuries to the head are the most frequent fatal injuries among bike riders. Helmets have been shown to lower the risk of major head trauma by approximately 60 percent. This means that you are almost twice as likely to be subject to a serious head injury when not wearing a helmet if an accident occurs. Facial injuries also significantly declined when helmets were regularly worn. Overall, the statistics emphasize the enormous importance of helmets for riders – the number of cyclists who are killed or gravely injured is reduced to 34 percent when helmets are used.

Results of the Study Shed Light on Bicycle Riding Habits

Helmets are most effective in preventing injuries in single bicycle accidents as opposed to incidents that involve collisions with motor vehicles. Single bicycle accidents can happen, for example, when a biker skids on a road or applies the brakes too forcefully and falls off the bike. This is good news for children, who were found to wear helmets in overwhelming majorities. Eighty-seven percent of children in Norway wear helmets when riding their bikes in comparison to 63 percent back in 2006. According to the study, helmets offer an equally effective protective mechanism for adults and children. Thus, increased bicycle helmet use by adults is strongly encouraged in this country of frequent riders.

The Case for Mandatory Helmet Laws

Like many states in the United States, Norway does not have laws requiring helmet use, though the issue has been vigorously debated. Many other foreign countries have such laws including Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina. In Sweden, children are required by law to wear helmets. Earlier research demonstrates that while helmet use does not lead to fewer accidents, cyclists with helmets had on average fewer accidents and incurred less serious injuries than non-helmet wearers.

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