The Health Impact of Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Laws

Piet de Jong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This article seeks to answer the question whether mandatory bicycle helmet laws deliver a net societal health benefit. The question is addressed using a simple model. The model recognizes a single health benefit-reduced head injuries-and a single health cost-increased morbidity due to foregone exercise from reduced cycling. Using estimates suggested in the literature on the effectiveness of helmets, the health benefits of cycling, head injury rates, and reductions in cycling leads to the following conclusions. In jurisdictions where cycling is safe, a helmet law is likely to have a large unintended negative health impact. In jurisdictions where cycling is relatively unsafe, helmets will do little to make it safer and a helmet law, under relatively extreme assumptions, may make a small positive contribution to net societal health. The model serves to focus the mandatory bicycle helmet law debate on overall health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)782-790
Number of pages9
JournalRisk Analysis
Volume32
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2012

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