Should You Wear a Bicycle Helmet?
Can wearing a bicycle helmet really help you ride more safely? Read our blog to learn the scientific answer to that question.
Riding a bike can be a fun, healthy, and effective way of getting around–both in big cities and in suburban areas. In Albuquerque, there are more than 400 miles of bike paths and trails, which means you can use a bike to get to virtually any place within city limits. You can do this either on your own bike or on one of the 250 rental bicycles available thanks to Albuquerque’s bike-share program, called PACE. For many of Albuquerque’s residents, regularly commuting to work by bicycle is a great way to beat the morning traffic and stay in shape during the warmer spring and summer months.
Despite obvious advantages, cycling can be quite dangerous. According to a study conducted a few years ago, New Mexico had the second-highest pedal cycle death rate in the nation, with the rate of fatal accidents involving cyclists being 1.5 times higher than the national average. Clearly, then, cyclists should be especially careful and take all necessary measures to protect themselves, especially when traveling on roads alongside motor-vehicle traffic.
One of the most popular safety measures available is: the bike helmet. It may come as a surprise, then, that the bike helmet also happens to be the most controversial safety measure. Bicycle helmet use has both its fervent promoters and staunch critics. The debate about whether or not to use a helmet has continued for years and there are no signs that it will be settled any time soon.
At Ron Bell Injury Lawyers®, we are great advocates of safety measures that are both reasonable and effective. That’s why this article will examine and evaluate some evidence of the effectiveness of bike helmets–along with the legal aspects of the issue.
New Mexico Bike Helmet Laws
First, let’s start with the legal view of the matter. While the use of bicycle helmets isn’t compulsory for all ages in any state, some state laws require minors to wear helmets.
New Mexico is one such state. Since 2007, under the Child Helmet Safety Act, all persons under the age of 18 are required to wear helmets when riding bicycles or other recreational vehicles including skateboards, scooters, skates, and tricycles. Adult cyclists, on the other hand, are not required to use helmets.
New Mexico does, however, regulate other aspects of bicycle use on roads and pathways. Some of the most important state regulations in that regard include:
- Ride as near to the right as possible
- Do not ride with more than 2 cyclists side by side except on paths or parts of roadways designated for bicyclists
- Always keep at least one hand upon the handlebar
- Keep a lamp emitting white light on the front and with a red reflector on the rear; the front light should be visible from at least 500 feet whereas the rear light should always be visible between 50 and 300 feet to the rear
- Maintain a working brake and a working bell
Benefits of Using a Helmet
One of the most scientifically established benefits of using the helmet is: head injury prevention. According to a comprehensive study that analyzed data related to more than 64,000 cyclists from around the world, bicycle helmet use can reduce the risks of a serious head injury by nearly 70 percent and a fatal head injury by 65 percent.
Researchers also reviewed more than 40 separate studies regarding helmet usage. They determined that helmets can be effective in preventing face injury and that–contrary to popular belief–are not associated with the risk of neck injuries.
Similarly, an analysis conducted in the Czech Republic in 2017 also showed tangible benefits of using a bicycle helmet. In that analysis, scientists investigated the circumstances of the deaths of 119 cyclists who died on Czech roads from 1995 to 2013.
In that study, every single case was closely analyzed on the basis of police reports to determine whether the victims would have survived if they had used a helmet. The researchers concluded that as much as 37 percent of these fatalities could have been avoided by the use of helmets. However, they also noted that a helmet would only have helped in cases where there was no other party involved–such as bike falls or collisions with obstacles–rather than in the case of a collision with a motor vehicle.
On the basis of all studies described above, bicycle riders in New Mexico should be able to draw two important conclusions:
- Using a helmet seems to be a reasonable and effective protective measure that increases a biker’s safety and may even save his or her life.
- The most risk lies with the environment rather than the activity itself. Cycling often takes place in a dangerous environment–on the road and in the middle of motor vehicle traffic.
Therefore, whether you decide to wear a helmet or not, you should always remember to take other precautions to decrease the risk of an accident. These measures may include, for example, using bike lanes whenever possible and wearing high-visibility clothes when cycling on busy roads. Only by taking such a comprehensive approach to your biking safety can you ensure that your every ride will be not only enjoyable and healthy but also safe.
Ron Bell Injury Lawyers® wish all cyclists a safe biking season this year!