Should More States Require Bike Helmet Laws? Get the Facts about Whether or Not Bike Helmets Help

The fact of the matter is this: Most fatal bike accidents involve the head – and one of the only ways to protect a person’s head when biking is to wear a helmet. Some states have laws that require certain individuals to wear helmets but most do not. In California, any rider under the age of 18 must wear a helmet when on a bike. However, adults are free to ride without one in most cities.

Bike Helmets Save Lives

This is actually a fairly simple topic because study after study has shown that wearing a bike helmet can mean the difference between a minor bike accident and a deadly one. In fact, studies show that the odds of head injury are reduced by 50% by simply wearing a helmet, and the odds of injury to the head, face, or neck goes down by 33%.

21 States Have Helmet Use Laws

As of today, there are 21 states within the United States that have helmet laws that apply to riders of one age or another. There are no states that have bike laws applying to riders of all ages. There are also some local ordinances that require some or all bike riders to wear helmets.

These Laws Help Save Lives

Many studies have shown that requiring helmet usage is a great way to increase helmet usage. According to one study, the odds that a person will wear a helmet if there is a helmet law are four times higher than if there is no law in place. Helmets are essential not just for young riders but for older a too. Consider this: In 2018, 87% of fatal bike accident victims were 20 years old or older. Only 17% of fatal bike accident victims were wearing helmets in 2018.

Bike Sharing Generally Results in Lower Helmet Usage

In many cities, more and more people are taking advantage of bike sharing programs. This may be good for their health and the health of the environment, but it could mean serious injury in the event of an accident because most people do not wear helmets on bike shares – even when it is required by law.

Not All Helmets Are Created Equally

There is a program at Virginia Tech that rates the safety of bike helmets. It looks at research that is performed by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety and puts these helmets through impact tests. It then rates and ranks each helmet based on how it performed.

Would more bike helmet laws help protect more people? Yes – but only if people took them seriously. That said, there is clear evidence that bike helmet laws do get many more people to use helmets when they ride.