Posts Tagged ‘Helmets’

Another helmet law to bite the dust?

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Kensington Metropark

We wrote about this in 2009: Milford Township has an ordinance requiring bicyclists to wear a helmet on the paved trails at the Kensingon Metropark.

And to be more specific, bicyclists must only wear a helmet when the paved trail is 10 feet wide.

Biking on the roads at Kensington or unpaved trails? No bicycle helmet is required.

This ordinance came about in 1996 after an inline skater had a fatal crash going down a long downhill section of trail. That segment of trail was changed and made less steep to reduce speeds, but the ordinance remained.

It may not remain for much longer according to this Observer & Eccentric article.

Huron-Clinton Metroparks has asked the township to drop the regulation, in effect since 1997, because of “inconsistencies” between the Kensington trail and adjoining trails that don’t have the rule — as well as enforcement issues, said Denise Semion, metroparks chief of communications.

“When the trail was built, it wasn’t connected to all the other trails (like it is today). It was a different time back then. Now we got people enjoying a bike ride, not required to have a helmet anywhere else, and they ride into Kensington and suddenly they have to have a helmet. It’s inconsistent for cyclists, it’s difficult to enforce. And we haven’t really been enforcing it that much (anyway),” she said, likening it to having a seat belt law in some communities, but not others.

One other issue with this ordinance is people in wheelchairs have to wear bicycle helmets.

Michigan Bicycle-Vehicle Crashes: Helmet vs. no-helmet

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

We produced a report showing bicycle crashes from 2004 through 2009  in Michigan and the degree of injury for each cyclist. We ran the report for cyclists with and without helmets.

For the majority of crashes it is not known whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet. We dropped those numbers. And in some cases, the police report said the cyclist was wearing a safety belt. We ignored those as well.

Only 40% of the police crash reports properly reported whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet or not. That shouldn’t be acceptable. Do we need an improved police reporting form or more training? We’re not sure.

But among those crashes that were properly reported, about 17% said the bicyclist was wearing a helmet in the crash.

Michigan Bicycle Crashes, 2004 – 2009

Degree of injury Helmet No helmet
Killed 1.4% 1.5%
Incapacitating 13% 11%
Non-incapacitating 38% 37%
Possible 36% 37%
No injury 10% 13%
Unknown/error 0.8% 1.1%

Now, let’s look at just the adult cyclists 18 and older. Helmets were worn in about 23% of the crashes.

Michigan Bicycle Crashes, 2004 – 2009, Adults only

Degree of injury Helmet No helmet
Killed 1.5% 1.9%
Incapacitating 15% 12%
Non-incapacitating 37% 35%
Possible 36% 39%
No injury 10% 12%
Unknown/error 0.6% 0.7%

One conclusion to make is that there isn’t much difference in injury severity between those wearing a helmet and those that are not. There’s a slightly higher fatality rather for non-helment wearers but helmeted cyclists do suffer from higher injury rates.

However, there’s not enough information to say these differences are due to helmet use. ¬†Experience, risk taking, riding styles, rural vs. urban roads and more all play a role in the types of crashes that occur. A study would need to remove those factors to really determine the affect helmets have on injury severity.

Pedestrian and bicycle safety data analysis

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

If you spend much time perusing the available safety publications for Michigan, it becomes fairly evident that not much serious effort is put into bicycle and pedestrian analysis.

SEMCOG

One example is SEMCOG’s Crash Facts report where more analysis and pages are devoted to vehicle-deer crashes than either pedestrian crashes or bicycle crashes. This is despite the fact that deer caused just one driver fatality in 2007. There were 65 pedestrian fatalities and 7 bicyclist fatalities in 2007.

For 2008, SEMCOG issued a cheery press release because overall fatalities and crashes were down.

“We are extremely happy to report this continuing decline in traffic crashes in Southeast Michigan,” notes SEMCOG Executive Director Paul Tait.

SEMCOG failed to note that both bicycle and pedestrian fatalities were up. In fact, 18% of all fatalities were pedestrians and bicyclists in 2007. In 2008 that pecentage jumped to 24%.

It seems the “analysis” is simply plugging this year’s numbers into the same old template.

A worthwhile analysis would look at trends within the region and where within the roadway these crashes are occuring.

Do we really need SEMCOG telling us that “bicycle crashes were more common in warmer months…likely due to the difficulties of bicycling in snowy or icy conditions?” They’ve been recycling this same text since 2002.

MDOT

To their credit, MDOT has supported some pedestrian safety studies within the city of Detroit. The city of Detroit’s Traffic Engineering department is has applied for safety funding to make improvements that should reduced pedestrian crashes.

GTSAC

Also, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Council includes some good analysis within the Michigan Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Action Plan.

Michigan Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety
Action Plan

OHSP

One interesting analysis from the Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) compares 2007 bicycle crash injury severity for helmeted and non-helmeted riders. We’ve rebuilt their data table as follows:

2007 Bicycle Crashes Total crashes Fatal or serious injury Minor or no injury
With helmet 177 18% 46%
No helmet 795 10% 51%

(Note that it is unreported whether helmets were worn in a little over half of the crashes.)

Among bicyclists wearing helmets in crashes, a significantly higher percentage suffered serious injury or death when compared those without helmets. One would expect the helmeted riders would have a reduced percentage of serious injury or death.

Can this be explained by risk compensation or demographics?

Nonetheless, the OSHP apparently didn’t do much analysis since they’ve cut-and-pasted a quote that’s unsupported by their own data: “Making the use of helmets the single most effective countermeasure available to reduce head injuries and fatalities resulting from bicycle crashes.”

And just to be sure that 2007 wasn’t simply a unique year, we looked at this data back to 2004. For every year, bicyclists wearing helmets in crashes suffered an equal or greater percentage of serious injury or death.

For what it’s worth, there is not a trend towards increased helmet use among those involved in reported bicyclist accidents within Michigan.

Where’s the Helmets for Motorists Campaign?

Monday, May 25th, 2009

motoring-helmet-014“You have made a sound decision to purchase your Davies, Craig Motoring Helmet. Wear it and don’t feel self-conscious. Driving even for the most proficient is dangerous.”

Yes, someone used to manufacture helmets for motorists. (via Copenhagenize)

Ridiculous?

Perhaps not according to a recent study of head injuries in Arizona by the Arizona Department of Health Services. The study found the primary causes of death for closed head injuries were firearms (44%), motor vehicles (21%) and falling (20%).

The motor vehicle causes of death were further broken down as follows:

  • 38% pedestrians
  • 34% motorcyclists
  • 24% motor vehicle occupants
  • 4% bicyclists

Apparently we need helmets not only for motorists but pedestrians as well.

So what about the causes of non-fatal closed head injuries? Most of them (47%) are caused by motor vehicle collisions, which again breaks down as follows:

  • 67% motor vehicle occupants
  • 15% motorcyclists
  • 11% pedestrians
  • 4% bicyclists

Of course not all non-fatal bicycling-related closed head injuries were due to motor vehicle collisions. According to this study, only half were. Even still, if we double the bicycling numbers, far more motor vehicle occupants receive closed head injuries and far more die from them.

Given this data, why are helmets heavily promoted for bicyclists but not at all for motor vehicle occupants? Why do these helmet campaigns make cycling without a helmet sound unsafe yet we don’t expect motorists to wear them?

And just to be clear, this isn’t about being anti-helmet. This is more of a call to be realistic about cycling safety and against the continous message that cycling is unsafe and always requires a helmet.

Evaluating the Health Benefit of Bicycle Helmet Laws

Sunday, April 19th, 2009


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We reported earlier the need for additional study of Australia’s mandatory bicycle helmet law. That’s been done.

An interesting study was released last month which models the health benefits of Australia’s mandatory bicycle helmet law.

The bottom line: Australia’s mandatory bicycle helmet law has adversely affected overall health.

A model is developed which permits the quantitative evaluation of the benefit of bicycle helmet laws. The efficacy of the law is evaluated in terms of the percentage drop in bicycling, the percentage increase in the cost of an accident when not wearing a helmet, and a quantity here called the “bicycling beta.” The approach balances the health benefits of increased safety against the health costs due to decreased cycling.

Using estimates suggested in the literature of the health benefits of cycling, accident rates and reductions in cycling, suggest helmets laws are counterproductive in terms of net health. The model serves to focus the bicycle helmet law debate on overall health as function of key parameters: cycle use, accident rates, helmet protection rates, exercise and environmental benefits.

This study also estimated the health impact of a mandatory U.S. helmet law would cost approximately $5 billion per year.

The idea of a Michigan state law requiring bicycle helmets came up during a 2004 Senate hearing while we were updating Michigan’s bicycle laws. I noted that helmets use should be voluntary. The kid that rides his bike with or without a helmet is far healthier than the kid that doesn’t ride a bike at all. We shouldn’t throw up barriers to having more kids riding bicycles.

Fortunately Michigan does not have a mandatory bicycle helmet law, but some Michigan communities do:

  • Adrian (under 15)
  • E. Grand Rapids (under 18)
  • Farmington Hills (under 16)
  • Kensington Metropark (all ages)

Among these, the Kensington helmet requirement is quirky.

The Metroparks don’t require helmets. Milford Township has an ordinance that applies to bicyclists only at Kensington while riding on the paved trail where it’s 10 feet wide. And the helmet must meet the ANSI standard, eventhough there was no ANSI helmet standard from 1998 through 2003.

It appears you do not need to wear a helmet while bicycling on the roads or any unpaved designated bike trails at Kensington.