September 2008

Helmet law linked to fewer deaths

New research suggests Ontario’s bicycle helmet legislation has helped reduce the number of children killed in bicycle crashes. An average of six child cyclists under the age of 16 have lost their lives each year since the law took effect in 1995; that’s compared to 13 annually before the law was passed. The research is reported in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics. It looked at fatalities between the years 1991 and 2002. In 1995, Ontario passed legislation requiring children under the ages of 18 to wear helmets while bicycling. The researchers, led by Dr. Patrician Parkin at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, found that the average number of bicycle-related deaths for children one to 15 years fell by 52%, from 13 to six deaths annually. There was no such decrease for older adolescents (who may be more resistant to wearing helmets) or for adults. “Our team understands the importance of bike helmets for safety,” said Dr. Parkin in a news release announcing the study. “We have previously shown a significant increase in children’s helmet use in our community.

Our goal for this research was to demonstrate how bicycling deaths have been cut in half, and hopefully influence more Canadians – young and old – to wear helmets while cycling.” In its analysis, the team also found that children were more than nine times more likely to be wearing a helmet when cycling with adults wearing helmets. The researchers suggest that educational programs and helmet promotion has helped increase the use of helmets leading to fewer child deaths, but believe that the law is key in saving lives. Their research supports extending the law to cyclists of all ages, they say.

Updated September 5, 2008