The Health Impact of Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Laws

Publication date: 
January 2012

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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 of 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 jurisdiction 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.



A plan to reduce head injuries.... Works for me.... It truly is a positive contribution.

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