BC Cycling Helmet Law

Bike Helmet Laws in BC

The law in BC is that you must wear an approved cycling helmet while riding a bike, and in fact, if you are the parent or guardian of a child under 16, you are responsible for ensuring that child wears a helmet too. But do mandatory helmet laws reduce injury rates?

It seems like a no-brainer: if a helmet reduces the incidence and severity of head injuries, then surely requiring cyclists to wear helmets reduces the head injury rates from cycling accidents. And yet, surprisingly, the results are not clear-cut! Although some US researchers have found that the introduction of helmet laws for children reduced the number of reported head injuries, it was not clear that the use of helmets was directly responsible. Head injuries were reduced, but also all injuries were reduced. This could mean that the introduction of helmet laws led to safer riding overall, therefore reducing accidents overall.

But it could also mean that fewer children rode their bikes, and that the introduction of helmet laws simply led to less riding overall.  Some researchers did find a “substitution effect,” an increase in injuries resulting from skateboarding, roller blading, and the like. In other words, young people chose to skateboard or roller blade without a helmet, rather than ride a bike with a helmet! You can read about one such US study here. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hec.2997/pdf)

A recent Canadian study (http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f2674) looked in depth at data collected across the whole country, comparing regions with and without mandatory helmet laws . Again, they found that although hospital admissions for head injuries did go down, this could not be attributed to helmet laws. These kinds of injuries had been declining prior to the passage of the helmet laws and continued to decline at the same rate. Why? Researchers suggest that other changes were contributing to make cycling safer: roads with separated bike lanes and designated bike routes, traffic calming measures, rider and driver education about road-safe cycling. Furthermore, even without mandatory helmet laws, more and more people have been choosing to use helmets. For instance, even though the helmet law in BC only applies to riding on roads, off-road riders (such as mountain, cross-country, or BMX-bikers) very often choose to use helmets, because those riders are very aware of the possibility for injury.

There is no question: wearing a properly fitted helmet reduces your risk of injury to the brain and head very significantly. If you are cycling, on or off road, you should wear a helmet whether required by law or not! However it appears there are many other factors contributing to your safety on the road. Your knowledge about how to behave in traffic, the awareness of drivers, and whether or not you are on a designated or separated bike line also have an impact on how safe you are. Use lights, bells, and high-visibility reflective clothing to make yourself seen and heard. Finally, distracted cycling is dangerous, just as is distracted driving. If you are texting, phoning, or listening to headphones while you ride, you are putting yourself at greater risk for an accident, with or without a helmet, and with or without a cycling helmet law.

If you get hit by a car while riding your bike, our team of experienced cycling accident lawyers in Vancouver and Surrey can assist you in obtaining full compensation from ICBC. Even if you were not wearing a helmet, this may include some immediate wage loss and medical benefits to help you while you recover. If you have been involved in a cycling accident, call us today at 604.684.0040 for your free consultation.

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