France: cycle helmets mandatory for children under 12 years

12.00 | 31 March 2017 |

A new law has come into effect in France making it a mandatory requirement for children under the age of 12 years to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle.

Failure to comply with the law, which came into force last week (22 March), can result in the child’s parents receiving a fine of €90 (around £78).

The French authorities, who first notified parents of the pending law change in December 2016, hope that the new law will have a knock-on effect for adults.

Emmanuel Barbe, the government’s road safety tsar, told Le Parisien newspaper: “If parents aren’t wearing helmets, their children will ask them about it. We want to pass on the message through the voices of the children.”

Olivier Schneider, president of the cycling campaign group the Fédération des usagers de la bicyclette (FUB) said that while it wasn’t opposed to the law, ‘any hope that this will improve the safety of cyclists on the roads is nonsense’.

He pointed to statistics that show just one child aged under 12 years was killed riding a bike in France in 2016, adding: “A real road safety measure would be to include cycle training on the primary school curriculum, to teach how to ride a bike on the street.”

In introducing the law, France follows in the footsteps of a number of other European countries including Malta, Sweden and Slovenia.

According to France’s road safety guide Sécurité Routière, wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of a serious head injury by 70%, the risk of minor injury by 31%, and the risk of facial injuries by 28%.

Separate research, published by researchers at the University of New South Wales, Australia, in September 2016, found that helmet use cut the chances of a head injury by 50%, a serious head injury by 69% and a fatal head injury by 65%. The study also found helmets reduce the odds of injuries to the face by 33%.

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