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Bicycle helmet laws

Health Factors: Community Safety
Decision Makers: Local Government State Government
Evidence Rating: Scientifically Supported
Population Reach: 10-19% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: Likely to decrease disparities

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Description

Bicycle helmet laws require bicyclists to wear helmets. Such laws may be established locally or statewide, and may apply to children or to all bicyclists. Penalties for violators vary, but are generally very minor (Markowitz 2013). Many bicyclists do not wear helmets; in a 2012 national survey, 46% of respondents over the age of 15 reported never wearing a helmet. Respondents also reported that 18% of household children never wear a helmet (NHTSA-Schroeder 2013).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Increased helmet use
Reduced fatal and non-fatal injuries

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that bicycle helmet laws increase helmet use (Cochrane-Macpherson 2010, Karkhaneh 2006, Carpenter 2011). Bicycle helmet laws also appear to reduce head injury in the short-term (Karkhaneh 2006, Cochrane-Macpherson 2010, Walter 2011, Markowitz 2013) and long-term (Olivier 2013).

Laws that require children to wear helmets appear to reduce bicycling-related deaths among children (Carpenter 2011, Cochrane-Macpherson 2010). Statewide laws may increase children's helmet use more than local laws (Dellinger 2010). Laws requiring children to wear helmets may increase helmet use among children more than laws for all ages affect helmet use among the broader population (Karkhaneh 2006). However, adult role modeling of helmet use may lead to increased use by children (Wesson 2008). Some researchers suggest that laws that focused on children’s use may lead to reduced bicycling among youth (Carpenter 2011).

Overall, helmet laws appear to increase helmet use more in areas with low helmet use than areas with higher use. Effects may also be stronger in lower income areas than higher income areas (Karkhaneh 2006).

Implementation

United States

Nationally, 21 states have child-targeted helmet laws. No state requires adults to wear bicycle helmets (IIHS-Bicycle laws). In a 2012 national survey, 87% of respondents favored laws requiring children to wear helmets, and 63% supported such laws for adults (NHTSA-Schroeder 2013).

Wisconsin

Wisconsin does not require bicyclists to wear helmets (IIHS-Bicycle laws).

Implementation Resources

BHSI-Laws - Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (BHSI). Mandatory helmet laws. Accessed on January 12, 2016

Citations - Description

Markowitz 2013* - Markowitz S, Chatterji P. Effects of bicycle helmet laws on children’s injuries. Health Economics. 2013:Epub. Accessed on December 30, 2015
NHTSA-Schroeder 2013 - Schroeder P, Wilbur M. 2012 National survey of bicyclist and pedestrian attitudes and behavior, volume 2: Findings report (Report No. DOT HS 811 841 B). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); 2013. Accessed on January 14, 2016

Citations - Evidence

Carpenter 2011* - Carpenter CS, Stehr M, Journal S, May N. Intended and unintended consequences of youth bicycle helmet laws. Journal of Law and Economics. 2011;54(2):305–24. Accessed on January 12, 2016
Cochrane-Macpherson 2010* - Macpherson A, Spinks A. Bicycle helmet legislation for the uptake of helmet use and prevention of head injuries. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2008;(3):CD005401. Accessed on December 22, 2015
Dellinger 2010* - Dellinger AM, Kresnow M. Bicycle helmet use among children in the United States: The effects of legislation, personal and household factors. Journal of Safety Research. 2010;41(4):375–80. Accessed on January 14, 2016
Karkhaneh 2006 - Karkhaneh M, Kalenga J, Hagel B, Rowe B. Effectiveness of bicycle helmet legislation to increase helmet use: A systematic review. Injury Prevention. 2006;12(2):76–82. Accessed on December 16, 2015
Markowitz 2013* - Markowitz S, Chatterji P. Effects of bicycle helmet laws on children’s injuries. Health Economics. 2013:Epub. Accessed on December 30, 2015
Olivier 2013* - Olivier J, Walter SR, Grzebieta RH. Long term bicycle related head injury trends for New South Wales, Australia following mandatory helmet legislation. Accident Analysis & Prevention. 2013;50:1128–34. Accessed on January 14, 2016
Walter 2011* - Walter SR, Olivier J, Churches T, Grzebieta R. The impact of compulsory cycle helmet legislation on cyclist head injuries in New South Wales, Australia. Accident Analysis & Prevention. 2011;43(6):2064–71. Accessed on December 22, 2015
Wesson 2008* - Wesson DE, Stephens DS, Lam K, et al. Trends in pediatric and adult bicycling deaths before and after passage of a bicycle helmet law. Pediatrics. 2008;122(3):605-610. Accessed on February 5, 2016

Citations - Implementation

IIHS-Bicycle laws - Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Bicycle helmet use. Accessed on December 15, 2015
NHTSA-Schroeder 2013 - Schroeder P, Wilbur M. 2012 National survey of bicyclist and pedestrian attitudes and behavior, volume 2: Findings report (Report No. DOT HS 811 841 B). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); 2013. Accessed on January 14, 2016

Page Last Updated

March 6, 2015

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