Why You Should Always Wear a Helmet While Riding a Bike
Riding a bike is an excellent way for people of all ages to get some exercise and get around in an environmentally friendly way. However, when not done safely, bike riding can potentially be very dangerous. The simple fact of the matter is that even the most experienced, most cautious bicyclists can still get into accidents and get hurt. It’s estimated that the average cautious rider will still crash at least once every 4,500 miles they ride. Injuries caused by bicycle accidents send more kids between the ages of 5 and 14 to the emergency room than injuries from any other sport.
Wearing a helmet goes a long way in protecting riders from serious brain injuries, reducing the risk by up to 88%. There is no greater way to reduce fatalities related to bicycle accidents. Head injuries are responsible for 75% of all deaths related to bicycle accidents, but only 21 states and Washington D.C. have laws regarding helmet use for bicyclists and most of those only cover helmet use for minors, not adults. Michigan is one of the states that does not have any laws regarding bicycle helmet usage.
Even if you aren’t legally required to wear a bicycle helmet, you always should wear one while riding, even if you aren’t planning on going far. Helmets protect wearers by helping to absorb the energy from a sharp impact. To do this, bike helmets typically have a layer of expanded polystyrene (EPS) or expanded polypropylene (EPP) foam between the outer shell and the wearer’s head. EPS is the most widely used type of foam in helmets, which offers good protection, but once it is crushed in an accident, it can’t be uncrushed and it’s no longer able to offer the protection it had before. The damage might not be visible, but it is there. Because of this, it is important for helmets to be replaced after being in an accident that involves a bump to the head, even if it seems minor.
The costs of bicyclists not wearing helmets can be astronomical. It’s estimated that every dollar spent on helmets saves $30 in medical costs and other costs to society. If 85% of child riders wore helmets while riding for one year, it would save between $109 million and $142 million in lifetime medical costs.
The good news is you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a bicycle helmet that offers good protection. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute sent six different types of bicycle helmets, three costing $20 or less and three costing $150 and over, to be tested to measure how well they were able to protect wearers from blows to the head. Their results found that the cheap helmets and the more expensive helmets offered virtually identical protection, however the more expensive helmets tended to have extra comfort features such as extra vents.
If you have a child learning to ride a bike, the best thing you can do to encourage helmet usage is to wear one yourself. Kids are more likely to wear helmets when riding a bikes with older people who are also wearing helmets.