Legislation can be vital in helping parents adhere to best practices
Existing research shows that bicyclists who wear helmets have an 88 percent lower risk of brain injury, but researchers at Boston Children's Hospital found that simply having bicycle helmet laws in place showed a 20 percent decrease in deaths and injuries for children younger than 16 who were in bicycle-motor vehicle collisions.
The cross-sectional study, conducted by William P. Meehan III, MD, Lois K. Lee, MD, MPH, Rebekah C. Mannix, MD, MPH of Boston Children's Hospital, and Christopher M. Fischer, MD, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, was published in the Journal of Pediatrics, and suggests that having these laws may influence parents to require their children wear helmets.
"Past research shows that laws can be an important factor in helping parents adhere to best practice guidelines," says Meehan. "For parents who feel like there is conflicting information related to child health, this evidence supports the fact that helmets save lives and that helmet laws play a role."
On average, 900 people die annually in bicycle-motor vehicle collisions-three quarters die from head injuries. At the start of the 12-year study (1999 to 2010), 16 states had bike helmet laws, and 35 did not. The researchers identified all relevant fatalities, totaling 1612, in states with and without bike helmet laws.
After adjusting for factors previously associated with rates of motor vehicle fatalities (elderly driver licensure laws, legal blood alcohol limit and household income) the adjusted fatality rate was still significantly lower in states with helmet laws.