New legislation requiring the wearing of cycle helmets in Jersey “will prevent head and brain injuries”, according to a new report by TRL.
Earlier this month, Jersey became the first jurisdiction in the UK to introduce a law requiring children under 14 years of age to wear helmets while cycling.
Before the vote, TRL was commissioned to provide an independent evidence review of literature relating to the proposed legislation, and to assess its likely effects on cyclist injuries and cycling activity.
TRL concluded that legislation requiring the wearing of cycle helmets in Jersey “will prevent head and brain injuries, especially in the most common collisions that do not involve motor vehicles, often simple falls or tumbles over the handlebars”.
TRL says that cycle helmet legislation “leads to reductions in injuries in all ages of cyclists, although helmets are particularly effective for children”. TRL goes on to say that “the plausible mechanism by which this benefit occurs is that legislation tends to lead to increased wearing rates”.
Richard Cuerden, technical director for vehicle safety at TRL and an author of the report, said: “There is no doubt that cycle helmets are effective in a crash, although some anti-helmet advocates still argue the opposite.
“The other arguments frequently made against them include, they put people off cycling and this results in a net health disbenefit; some even argue that helmet wearing increases the risk of an accident.
“These are extremely serious claims and the literature surrounding these issues was considered very carefully.”
TRL found that current evidence “does not support the assertion that cycle helmet legislation leads to large reductions in cycling participation that outweigh any potential injury reduction benefits through a corresponding reduction in health benefits”. It adds that any reductions in cycling activity “are likely to be small and short term”.
Richard Cuerden added: “Firstly, it is not true to state that the accident rate has been proven to be higher for helmet wearers per km of travel – this is simply not an accepted fact.
“The very large reductions in cycling activity cited by opponents of cycle helmet legislation are based on early analyses of observations of cycling rates in Australia in the 1990s, which subsequently have been shown to be statistically flawed.
“It is also important to remind ourselves that cycle helmet designs were very different in the early 1990s to those currently available, in terms of materials, ventilation, coverage, comfort and even styling.”
TRL says its report raises important questions for the rest of the UK, including “how can cycle helmet wearing rates be increased to help reduce head and brain injuries suffered across all regions of the British Isles?”.
TRL says “the lack of information regarding the size and nature of the cyclist casualty problem” is a challenge….”because the vast majority of single vehicle cycle accidents that result in hospitalisation are not reported to the police and there is limited hospital data available on the injuries sustained”.
TRL recommends that more work is required in this area to “better quantify and describe the characteristics of injuries sustained by cyclists, with and without helmets”.
Richard Cuerden concluded: “Cycle helmets are effective, but it is equally important to actively identify and improve other casualty reduction measures including road design – especially at junctions, cyclist conspicuity, cyclist and other road users training and behaviour, enforcement, the crashworthiness of other vehicles and new accident avoidance technologies.
“I believe it is clear that cycle helmets are an integral part of a safe system approach, which in my opinion should seek to promote and increase the rate of cycling whilst setting stretching casualty reduction targets, ultimately striving towards zero deaths and serious injuries.”