To Helmet, or Not to Helmet: What’s Wrong with Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Laws?

Crashing with helmet onHelmets are specifically designed to protect your head in the event of a crash, and they are actually quite effective at it, so why are more and more cyclists and lawmakers speaking against mandatory bicycle helmet laws around the country?

Cycling advocates have a list of reasons as to why mandatory helmet laws, particularly for adult riders, should be done away with. Here are a few of them:

  • Mandatory helmet laws make cycling seem intimidatingly dangerous, dissuading would-be riders from enjoying the health and economic benefits.
  • The helmet laws are inconvenient. Requiring a rider to buy and wear a helmet every time they want to go for a spin could deter some people from riding.
  • Some cyclists argue that helmets actually cause more wrecks. Impaired visibility and hearing may lead to more accidents.

These are some of the more popular arguments. However, it is important to note that some cycling advocates are not necessarily “anti-helmet”, just against making helmet laws mandatory.

“I wear a helmet every day. Everyone in our office wears a helmet every day, but as public policy, it’s not a good idea. It just limits the ease and accessibility of bicycling,” says Colin Browne, a communications coordinator for the Washington D.C. Area Bicyclist Association.

The University of Denver published a study that shows that the more cyclists that are on the road, the fewer bicycle accidents there are. While it does seem counterintuitive, the research suggests that when drivers become more accustomed to seeing cyclists on the road, they become better experienced in how to safely drive around them.

This means that any law that dissuades potential riders from getting out there and riding could actually be doing more harm than good. Advocates claim that in places like Australia, New Zealand and Canada, helmet laws were detrimental to the big picture as the number of head injuries in riders remained the same, but the number of riders themselves dropped as much as 44 percent.

So, even though helmets are proven to be very effective at keeping our heads safe, should we support or oppose mandatory helmet laws?

Bonnici Law GroupSan Diego bicycle accident attorney