Professor Narelle Haworth, from QUT’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q), said a review of the most scientifically rigorous research found bicycle helmets that met national standards protected against head, brain and facial injuries.
Australia was the first country to make riding without a helmet illegal.
“Our study showed that wearing a bicycle helmet was associated with a 69 per cent reduction in the likelihood of head or brain injuries and a 74 per cent reduction in the likelihood of severe brain injury,” she said
“Furthermore, helmet wearing reduced the likelihood of injury to the upper and mid-face by 65 per cent.”
Professor Haworth said the findings were consistent with published evidence that mandatory bicycle helmet wearing legislation had prevented injuries and deaths.
She said there was no evidence to support calls to abolish the mandatory wearing of bicycle helmets in a bid to increase cycling rates.
“We looked at whether there was any evidence that helmets were impacting cycling rates,” Professor Haworth said.
“While there is evidence that helmets reduced cycling rates 20 years ago, it isn’t the case today. For most people the reason they don’t cycle is because it doesn’t fit in with their lifestyle.”
Professor Haworth said the research also showed helmet wearing by all age groups was effective and limiting the scope of the rules would see an increase in cyclist head injuries.
“Any move away from universal helmet wearing legislation to a segmented approach would increase the chance of head injury to those not required to wear a helmet,” she said.
“It would also have an indirect effect in reducing helmet wearing rates among those who are still required to wear a helmet.
“Only requiring bicycle helmets to be worn by children or when riding on the road would result in substantial increases in the percentage of riders in crashes who sustain head injuries.”
Professor Haworth said while infrastructure and speed management approaches to improving the safety of cycling were necessary, the protection of the individual by simple and cost-effective methods such as bicycle helmets should also be part of an overall package of safety measures.
CARRS-Q is a member of QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation.
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