Out and About

Why don’t children wear bicycle helmets?

We should all know by now that cycle helmets save children’s lives and prevent serious injury

82% of children under 15 years don’t where cycle helmets. This reality is set against the fact that properly worn helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 85% and the risk of brain injury by almost 90%. So why don’t they wear them?

The overwhelming reason in both boys and girls is appearance and much more so with boys – they don’t look cool. Designers are trying to overcome this but success is more likely if peer groups in popular culture are seen wearing them.


Another important put-off is comfort and poor fit. The range of sizes is often poor. Helpful as always the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust have come up with the ‘Five S’s’ on how to wear a helmet:


• Standards – ensure the helmet has the required safety standard; BS EN 1078

• Senses – ensure the helmet allows full vision and does not cover the ears

• Snug fit – read the instructions that come with your helmet to ensure a secure fit

• Squarely positioned – ensure the helmet covers your forehead and does not tilt back

• Secure straps – there should be no slack and adjusted properly each time the helmet is worn.


In Australia cycle helmets were made compulsory in 1991 which in some areas decreased deaths and injuries by 50%. Although the BMA has called for a campaign to promote the use of helmets it has not gone as far as to support the compulsory wearing of helmets through legislation. They say that ‘most fatal accidents happen in collisions with cars…helmets cannot protect against any impact of more that 13mph’. However the BHIT report that 90% of child cycle accidents occur off road. The BMA go on to say that the health benefits of cycling are likely to out weigh the loss of life through accidents and trying to force people to wear them would deter many from taking the fitter way of travel.


Which ever way the political arguments are positioned it does seem strange that it is only motor cycle riders that are compelled to where head protection on the roads and not cyclists, horse riders, trap drivers and open top car drivers.


The facts are that the under 16s account for 60% of those attending A&E departments for bicycle related injuries and that 11-15 year olds are at greatest risk of sever injury/death (DETR 1998) and that the wearing of properly fitted cycle helmets reduces head injury by 85%.


So the message is: make sure the ‘cap’ fits – lets get our children into helmets.



Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust: 01189 752 994



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