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Helmet Briefs from the Past



Summary: Older helmet briefs retired from our main helmet briefs page.




Study: Helmets and Laws in New York State

(November 29, 1999)

The November, 1999, issue of the American Journal of Public Health has an article by Dr. Douglas R. Puder et. al. of the Department of Pediatrics, Nyack Hospital, Nyack NY which concludes that helmet legislation can be important in boosting levels of helmet usage. It also gives realistic estimates for helmet usage in the three counties surveyed based on actual observation in the summer of 1995.

Dr. Puder and his colleagues observed cyclists in New York's Rockland and Westchester counties, and in Fairfield County, Connecticut to provide data for evaluating the effectiveness of the counties' helmet laws. At that time, Rockland required all cyclists of all ages to wear helmets. In Westchester the New York state law covered all cyclists under age 14. In Fairfield County, the Connecticut state law required helmets for riders under 12. (Connecticut has since raised its age to under 15.) In Rockland and Westchester counties there is a potential fine of $50 for infractions, although in most localities such fines are rarely levied.

Puder and his colleagues observed nearly 1,000 cyclists at 51 sites in the three counties over the course of that summer. After factoring in their ages they concluded that cyclists in Rockland County, with the strictest helmet law, had the highest rate of helmet use (35 per cent). Riders in Westchester County had a helmet usage rate of 24 per cent. Cyclists in Fairfield County, with the most lenient law, wore helmets only 14 per cent of the time.

The study concludes that an all-ages helmet law is effective in raising helmet usage, although the authors did not take into account educational factors which may have affected the totals. They ignored the possible effects of school programs or local helmet promotion efforts.

In addition to the overall numbers, the study states that teen helmet usage was 17 per cent in Rockland County, 8 per cent in Westchester and 4 per cent in Fairfield. Follow up sampling in 1999 indicated that in Rockland teen helmet use is now up to 35 per cent.

SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health 1999;89:1736-1738.


Book and Video: A Helmet Away From Heaven

(July 13, 1999)

Judy Pence has published a book titled A Helmet Away From Heaven, an account of her son's ordeal after his bicycle crash. Jeff Pence was lucky to have a helmet on that day, since his head injury was substantial and would most likely have been fatal without head protection. He spent time in a coma, and later in rehabilitation The story covers the time before and after the crash, including Jeff's embarrassment returning to school in the fall with scars and missing hair patches on his head. Pence Publishing also has a 15 minute video narrated by Jeff for grades 4-10. Both are available from Pence Publishing Company. The video has hospital scenes to leave an impression of how bad Jeff's injury was, but the message is complicated a little because he did in fact have a helmet on, and was injured anyway. If the strap was as loose as the one he wears in the simulation, he was lucky if the helmet was actually in place to take the blow. Anyway, this is not a "formula" video or book and may be worth a look if you are planning a bike safety campaign, since it starts with helmets but proceeds quickly enough to broader safety concepts. And you can always use it to challenge your students to distinguish which of the actors is wearing a properly adjusted helmet.


Rad Rider is a Cool Site!

(July 7, 1999)

An HMO in California has put a site up that breaks new ground. If we are too serious for you, this is your site! The whole site is totally cool and absolutely graphic. You do need Shockwave to see their pages, but everything moves and the advanced graphics are worth the visit. There is a whole 20-page comic book there, for example. The HMO has developed a package of materials for schools and ties their Web site into homework, with an interactive test for kids to take home to work on with their parents that give instant feedback on correct responses when done on line. This is a dynamite site! (Note: WAS a dynamite site. It has disappeared as of July, 2003.)


Maine Passes Helmet Law

(June 3, 1999)

The State of Maine has just become the 16th state to pass a bicycle helmet law. The Maine helmet requirement was contained in their Bicycle Safety Education Act, and covers all riders under 16. The helmet required is defined as one that meets the CPSC standard. There is no fine associated with non-compliance, but a police officer can stop an unhelmeted rider and provide them with bicycle safety information and info on where to get a helmet. Municipalities are apparently permitted to go beyond the state law, at least for the education provisions of the act. The law will come into effect later this year, 90 days after the adjournment of the Maine legislature, which is still in session. Maine Safe Kids and its coordinator Bob Bull lead the charge for the law, assisted by a small grant from the National Safe Kids Campaign.


Bicycling has a bit on BHSI

(May 26, 1999)

The July issue of Bicycling magazine has a nice blurb on us in a column called Group Guide, in the Shorts section on p. 32. It is a very short article that manages in a few words to capture the essence of this organization. We will grant them poetic license for their one bit of exaggeration:

    "Where would we be without them: Wearing Skid-Lids and leather hairnets, wondering why so many of our friends are in the hospital."


Consumer Reports Publishes a New Helmet Article!

(May 15, 1999)

Consumer Reports has a new article on bicycle helmets in their June issue. It is well-written and concise, with ratings for 12 adult helmets, 8 youth models and four for children. Eight of the models are produced by Bell or Giro, a Bell subsidiary, reflecting Bell's large market share and the general availability of their helmets everywhere in the US. The Louis Garneau Globe was the only model to receive the highest rating for impact protection. The Bell EVO-2 Pro and Trek Vapor were ranked equally with it however, despite receiving a lower impact rating than the Globe, apparently based on better rolloff resistance for the Bell and better ventilation. We like the well-rounded profile of both the Globe and the Bell, but we think the partial external shell of the EVO-2 Pro is a fashion quirk that consumers should avoid. (See our comments on both helmets in our long report on Helmets for 1999.) The Trek Vapor for $32 is considered a Best Buy.

The article has ratings for the impact protection, strap, ventilation and fit of each helmet. Due to the conciseness of this article we don't know exactly how they arrived at the impact ratings, but if your helmet is not among those reviewed they recommend you look for a CPSC sticker inside. The article is available for a fee on the Consumer Reports Web site. We recommend it highly. We have a longer review of the article up as well.


CPSC and McDonald's Announce Helmet Promotion Campaign

(April 21, 1999)

The Consumer Product Safety Commission and McDonald's have launched a helmet promotion campaign, including a Web site and a study on helmet usage that concludes that half of the nation's bicycle riders are wearing helmets (!). Although we don't agree with the study's optimistic numbers, we welcome the cool Web site and sent out an Email Update about the campaign. Note: the site is gone in 2003.


Consumer Reports announces helmet article

(March 23, 1999)

Consumer Reports included in their April, 1999 issue the information that they will soon publish a new bicycle helmet article. It will be a welcome update to their previous one, done in 1997.


Seymour, Connecticut Repeals Helmet Law

(Reported to us in March, 1999)

The town of Seymour, Connecticut, has repealed its bicycle helmet law, the first we have heard of. The referendum on it failed by a considerable margin, attributed by at least one town resident to having it linked to a smoking ordinance on the same ballot.


Evaluation of Bicycle Safety Programs
Available on the Web

(January, 1999)

The Washington State Traffic Safety Commission and Harborview Injury Prevention Research Center have published a study of Training Programs for Bicycle Safety. The study discusses general themes in bicycle safety training, including goals, program length and where training should be undertaken. It then evaluates 27 programs on the basis of Target Age Group, Length of Program, Objectives, Type of Training and Evaluation. There is a section in the opening Overview discussing helmets. The authors are Dr. Frederick Rivara, who has published a number of fine studies on helmet effectiveness, and Jane Metrik.


PTI Cutting Expenses, Jobs

(January, 1999)

An article in the January 1 issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News quotes a Reuters article saying that helmet maker Protective Technologies International has announced that it will cut expenses in 1999 by about ten percent, or $1.25 million. The company will cut some jobs in January, saving about a half million dollars. PTI makes bicycle and skate helmets, as well as other protective equipment including wrist and knee guards for skaters. Their helmets sell through mass merchants, including Toys R Us, typically in the $10 to $30 price range.


SEI Certifies 14 Bell models to the CPSC Standard

(December, 1998)

The Safety Equipment Institute has issued certifications for a number of Bell helmet models, certifying that they meet the Consumer Product Safety Commission's bicycle helmet standard. The CPSC standard becomes a legal requirement for any helmet manufactured for the U.S. market after March 10, 1999, but helmets manufactured up until that date can get by with meeting only the 1984 ANSI standard (easily met) or the ASTM standard (comparable to CPSC). SEI has been providing independent certification to the ASTM standard, and now is having helmets tested to the CPSC standard and issuing certifications. They have certified to the CPSC standard Bell's EVO, EVO2, Intercooler, Nemesis, Nemesis II and Sonar for adults. For toddlers there are the Cool Cap, L'il Bell 98, Headwinds toddler, Li'l Animals, and Pilot. In addition the child or youth models of the Passport, Phantom, Rattler and Scout are on the SEI certified list. SEI is an independent non-profit with a Web site at www.seinet.org. Other models and manufacturers will follow, so check there for the most recent update of their list of helmets certified to the CPSC standard.

The only way to be sure that any helmet on a dealer's shelf is actually one of the models certified by SEI is to verify that there is a sticker inside that says the helmet meets the CPSC standard. The older models meeting only the ASTM standard are very similar in protection, but some of them -- even those whose model name has not changed and whose appearance is still similar -- may lack the additional coverage and impact protection required by the new CPSC standard. Consumers should expect heavy discounts in 1999 on helmets that do not have a CPSC standard sticker inside.


Bicycle Helmet Developments in 1999

(October, 1998)

There will be some interesting new developments in helmets in 1999. Styles and models are not changing much, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission standard becomes law for all helmets manufactured after March 10, 1999. The standard is more rigorous in some respects than the ASTM standard it will largely replace, and much more rigorous than the old 1984 ANSI standard. The differences are small in most cases if the helmet meets the ASTM standard. Older helmets will still be on the dealers' shelves, and should be bargains even though they may be slightly less protective than those meeting the CPSC standard. Some manufacturers have always exceeded the standard, but we will have to wait for Consumer Reports' next article to find out which ones.

At present, we recommend ASTM or CPSC helmets almost interchangeably. But as the years go by a consumer will feel more secure with one that passes the current--CPSC--standard than one that passed the old one. It will be interesting to see which helmet models disappear or have to be modified to meet the new standard. Do not take anyone's word for which helmets meet the CPSC standard unless the helmet has a CPSC sticker inside certifying that it does! If you can deal with the complexities of the Snell Foundation's various bicycle helmet standards it may be possible to ensure that you are buying an even more protective helmet, but we despair of ever explaining that to consumers, and the most-used Snell standard (B-90S) has no pronounced advantages over the CPSC standard other than Snell's independent testing.

The ASTM headgear subcommittee is in the process of upgrading some elements of its standard to make sure that in the future any helmet passing ASTM F1447 will also pass the CPSC standard. As with all ASTM processes, this will take months if not years, but the first subcommittee ballot has been circulated.


CPSC Publishes New Standard
Effective March 10 1999

(March 11, 1998)

Yesterday CPSC published their bicycle helmet standard in the Federal Register. This is a welcome announcement for consumers that nails down the effective date of the new standard: March 10, 1999, one year later. Manufacturers can begin certifying to it immediately. We have more detail in our emailed Helmet Update newsletter, including a link to the full text of the standard. The standard will raise the minimum impact performance required of helmets in the U.S. market to the level of the current ASTM standard and Snell B-90S. See our page on standards for more details.


Bell Going Private

(February 20)

Bell Sports Inc is apparently about to go private again after some years as a public company. A group of investors including two top Bell execs will offer to purchase outstanding shares and take the world's largest-volume helmet company private again. Bell's lack of growth recently has hurt its stock price, since the market puts a premium on growth. Private investors may be satisfied with a steady return.


New Aero Designs in Olympics May Reach Helmets

(February 16)

At the Winter Olympics in Nagano, new racing suit designs have surfaced among Dutch skaters and others. Winter sports outfitters are using some new aero tricks to reduce wind resistance for skiers and skaters. Some of the new suits have already been banned for skiers as giving too much advantage. This could be where aero bike helmets are eventually headed. Some of the technology is as old as the dimples on golf balls. It should be easy to produce bike helmets using the designs. We like it because the surfaces are almost smooth, unlike the squared-off designs becoming popular in 1998. Consumers can benefit--even though it won't make most of them any faster at all it might get them smoother helmets! Here is a page with lots of technical info on the new designs,


CPSC Approves New Standard!
Effective March, 1999, but can be used now

(February 5)

CPSC met today and approved their bicycle helmet standard. This is a welcome advance for consumers that will effectively raise the minimum level of quality of all bicycle helmets in the U.S. market to be approximately equal to the current ASTM standard and Snell B-90S. The standard will legally take effect and become a legal requirement for all helmets produced for sale in the U.S. market after March, 1999, but manufacturers can begin certifying to it immediately. We have all the details and a copy of the standard up.


CPSC Standard Nears Final Rule

(January 29)

The staff of the Consumer Product Safety Commission briefed the three Commissioners on January 21st on the final draft of the CPSC bicycle helmet standard. This standard will become U.S. law one year after publication in the Federal Register. The Commission will take its vote on February 5th.

CPSC's main changes related to children's helmets, where they have retreated to a 300 g threshold and adult headform weights for the lab tests. Bell had Jim Sundahl send a last-minute letter on the subject, which CPSC staffer Scott Heh promised to analyze for the Commissioners before the final vote. They are also permitting either monorail or twin-wire test rigs. Another significant announcement was that CPSC can amend this standard under the same streamlined procedures under which it is being adopted, welcome news indeed. Manufacturers can begin certifying to the standard as soon as it is published in the Federal Register in March. We would expect most helmets now in the market to meet the new standard, since most of them are currently certified to the very similar ASTM standard. For more on that see this email Update Newsletter with our analysis of the standard. We also have a full copy of the draft standard up. We will update this brief when the Commission meets on February 5th.

New Swedish Data on Fatalities?

This report comes from Garry Jones, whose email address is in Sweden. Needless to say, we are looking for the reference, since the data seem optimistic, to say the least!


Here is some data from Sweden.

I would like to see the source of it, and it did come in a consumer TV program which aired last Monday. I must point out that they were basically saying that every cyclist should always wear helmets.

However, I did get a feeling that this medical expert knew what he was saying:

There were 67 bicycle deaths in Sweden in 1996. They had studied each of the deaths in great detail and arrived at an amazing conclusion: EVERY ONE of those cyclists would "stood an excellent chance of survival" had they been wearing a helmet.

New Jersey Reports 60 Per Cent Reduction in Fatalities

(July 16)

The State of New Jersey has reported that bicycle-related fatalities for the under-14 age group covered by their bicycle helmet law fell 60 per cent in the five years since they introduced the law. Fatalities for 1987-1991 totaled 41, while those in the five years since the law went into effect totaled only 16. For the 14 and over group not covered by the law, fatalities went from 75 to 71 over the same periods. We have a copy of the full New Jersey press release on the improvement.

Consumer Reports publishes their article!

(May 19)

CU has published a helmet article in the June issue of Consumer Reports. We have a review of the article up. They found some buckle problems, but the extent is not clear, and they did not down rate any helmets, indicating that they do not consider the problem too serious. Various people are working on the buckle info, and we will have more on that eventually.


NHTSA Buckle Up Message Includes Bicycle Helmets

(May 13)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a press release on May 13 expanding its annual May message encouraging safety belt use to include "buckling up" helmets before riding a bicycle. May is National Bike Month.


British Columbia Coroner Publishes Report

The Office of the Chief Coroner in BC, Canada, has published a 37 page report entitled "Deaths of Cyclists in British Columbia." After reviewing the deaths, the Coroner believes in safety education for cyclists and in the use of bicycle helmets. Beyond the analysis is a set of 12 recommendations and an appendix with capsule descriptions from the coroner's files of 56 deaths in BC between 1986 and 1993.


Consumer Reports Planning Helmet Article

(April 14)

The April issue of Consumer Reports says we can expect an article from them soon on bicycle helmets. This is big news for those of us who are starved for publicly-available lab test data on current helmet models, since there has been no new data published since their previous helmet article in 1994. We hope that this year's article will stay current longer than the last one did, since most of the models were replaced with new ones before that one was published. The old article is not available on the Web, but we can send you a paper copy of it if you need one. (We had to pay CU a fee to do even that.) We anticipate a delay before we can provide reprints of the coming article, if at all, so be sure to pick it up at a newsstand if you are not a subscriber.


BHSI Files FOIA Request for CPSC Data

(April 11)

The Consumer Product Safety Commission purchases bicycle helmets from retail outlets with taxpayer funding and tests them in labs paid for by the taxpayer. Then they classify the results as "proprietary information" of the bicycle helmet manufacturer and refuse to release them. BHSI has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with CPSC requesting the data from their testing. If it is denied we will have to take the issue to court for a final ruling. We believe that the public is entitled to have that data, and we want to post it here. We have a copy of our FOIA request letter up, and CPSC's reply.


NY Times: Seattle Calls for National Helmet Campaign

(March 31)

The New York Times published an article today reporting that Harborview Injury Prevention Center is calling for a national campaign to promote bicycle helmets, based on the model of the successful Seattle campaign. They estimate that the first phase would cost $80,000 per year. The article quotes Fred Rivara and Abe Bergman from Harborview. It also quotes Jeffrey Sacks of CDC saying that money is the problem, and Mark Rosenberg of CDC, saying we don't know yet everything we need to know to mount a successful national campaign, and the funding will be a problem. The always-outspoken Dr. Bergman is quoted as saying "It's not the money but the lack of will." The initial Harborview call for a national campaign was made some months ago. (You can find the article on the Times Web site: they wanted $100 for permission to post it here for six months, and it's pretty stale news.)


Australians Study Facial Injuries

(February 26)

An Australian study based on research conducted in Brisbane has concluded that:

  • Facial injuries are potentially disfiguring a helmet re-design is indicated to cover a larger area of the head as well as the chin. Vision must be maintained, and weight is a factor as well as strength. Children who fall off their bicycles are damaging their faces and jaws. Although rarely life-threatening, the injuries can have long-term consequences. The article calls for preventive strategies to reduce the number of crashes as well as revised helmet designs to protect the face and head.

The study draft we saw is no longer available on the Web, and we do not have the final version, but it was published by The Medical Journal of Australia as Bicycle Riding and Oral/maxillofacial Trauma in Young Children, by Caroline H. C. Acton, James W. Nixon and Ronald C. Clark (MJA 1996; 165: 249)


Snell Establishes Education Center

The Snell Foundation has set up a separate non-profit to handle its educational activities. The press release on the new entity says they hope to attract additional outside funding for their program, mentioning manufacturers as one potential source.


Harborview Publishes in JAMA!

The December 25, 1996, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association has two articles from the emergency room research study conducted in Seattle by Thompson, Rivara and Thompson on helmets and injuries. These are landmarks certain to be cited for years to come, and will be followed by additional articles. You can read the abstracts on
JAMA's Web page. (Registration required, painless.) We will have a detailed brief up real soon now.


The Wall Street Journal has an article about the Snell Foundation.

In general, they faithfully reported Snell's views on nearly everything, including the Snell interpretation of why many manufacturers have fled to ASTM.


CPSC Revises Schedule for Bicycle Helmet Standard - December, 1996

Scott Heh of the Consumer Product Safety Commission briefed ASTM members and observers at ASTM's meetings in New Orleans on CPSC's activities and timetable for publishing a final bicycle helmet standard. Their main issues are:
  • Children's standard - g level
  • Curbstone anvil - How to specify its use in the impact schedule
  • Test Rig: Monorail or Twin wire
  • Labeling
  • Reflectivity
Heh said CPSC is winding up a round robin test series with various labs to ensure that their test rig is correctly specified. That has delayed their project schedule, and his best estimate at present is that they will have another draft out somewhere around April or May of 1997. (That subsequently slipped to July, 1997) There may be a requirement for another comment period (he will press for 60 days rather than 75 if that is needed) and that would require a third draft, hopefully to be done before the end of 1997. That would take effect at the end of 1998. (The significance of the delay is that until that date, helmets meeting only the ANSI Z90.4-1984 standard will continue to be legal in the U.S. market.) CPSC is looking at the labeling issue raised by Blue Goulding and others on wording a "bicycle use only" statement that says what the helmet is designed for rather than a "not for motor vehicle use" statement which only rules out one unintended use. CPSC has finished its testing of the usefulness of reflectivity on bicycle helmets, done at the same time as its testing of reflectors mounted on the bicycle. The tests involved instrumented cars and drivers who vocalized their reactions as they drove around the NIST test grounds approaching helmeted cyclists whose helmets and bicycles had various reflective surfaces. A human factors specialist rode in each car and recorded additional detail about the drivers' reactions. The test data is being analyzed, and will figure into CPSC's final decision on a possible reflectivity requirement for helmets.

ASTM F8.53 Subcommittee Makes Progress - December 11, 1996

At its December meeting in New Orleans the ASTM Headgear subcommittee noted some changes and voted some others, resulting in its most productive meeting in years. Notable changes included the appointment by ASTM of veteran staffer George Luciw (pronounced loo-chew) to head up the subcommittee's support. George brought a wealth of experience and a wealth of organization to the subcommittee's work. In another change, BHSI's Randy Swart was appointed by Chairman Dave Halstead as 2nd VP. (Dean Fisher of Bell is 1st VP for Life.) This is less an honor than a sentence of additional work. The group established a tracking system for balloting changes in its standards, untangled the status of previous balloted items and beefed up its Form and Style Committee by the addition of a third member, John Sabelli of ETL/Inchcape labs. (The other two members are Dan Pomerening of Southwest Labs and Randy Swart.) The meeting finished with nine action items to be worked on over the next six months. You can also see notes from the "Shirtsleeves" technical meeting that preceded the Subcommittee meeting. George Luciw reported that the long-anticipated harmonization of the ANSI Zl90.4 and ASTM F-1446/1447 standards has actually been finalized, and on October 24th ANSI adopted the ASTM standard as ANSI-accredited and ANSI-approved. The next printing of the ASTM standards will bear a line at the top noting that they are American National Standards. BHSI has been actively involved in this process and is pleased that it has finally been formalized.


ASTM Has Inline Skating Helmet Standard - December, 1996

At the ASTM F8.53 Headgear subcommittee meeting in New Orleans, ASTM announced that it has given final approval to the long-awaited Inline Skating helmet standard, designated by the number F-1751-96 and known as the Specification for Helmets Used in Recreational Roller Skating. This standard does not cover trick or freestyle skating, where frequent crashes require a multi-impact helmet. Its main significance is that it is identical in all performance and coverage requirements to the ASTM bicycle helmet standard (F-1446-95a/F1447-94) and any changes to the bicycle helmet standard flow through automatically to the skating standard. Thus the question of whether or not bicycle helmets are adequate for inline skating has finally been answered by adopting an identical standard. The new standard should be available in printed form from ASTM early in 1997. You can read more background on this subject in a message from Les Earnest, another member of the F-8.53 Subcommittee. We have put up a page on non-bicycle helmets if you need more on other helmets.


Bell Agrees to Produce Oversized Helmet - November 12, 1996

We have been informed by Bell's staff that they have decided to produce a helmet which will fit people with head sizes up to 8 and one quarter. The decision was to produce a helmet from scratch, rather than just expand an existing model, so don't hold your breath, but it may be out before next summer.

We congratulate Bell on the decision, made in the almost certain knowledge that the helmet will never make them any money and is in fact a loser. This is a public-service undertaking, and one that we have been promoting for a long time without finding a manufacturer who wanted to pony up. We are not always kind to Bell's helmet designs, but this one will be an important addition to the market. Here is the Bicycle Retailer and Industry News coverage on this subject, from their January 1, 1997 issue. And here is our own page for those with large heads. Hopefully the Kinghead will put an end to messages like the one which follows in the next brief!

New Helmet Line May Fit Larger Heads - November 5, 1996

We just received this message:

Thank you very much for your response. You may recall, I was looking for a helmet for a head size of 25 1/2". I was able to find a Giro XXL in the Phoenix area, but the shape was wrong - the helmet is round rather than long. However, GT just came out with a new line, called the Stinger. The shape is long rather than round, and they run large. With minimal modification, we should get that one to fit. I realize that it is not a good idea to modify the helmet, but the foam is quite thick, and we figured it is much better than biking over rocky trails with no protection at all.


BC Grants Exemptions to Helmet Law - September 29

The western Canadian province of British Columbia has decided to grant exemptions to its new mandatory helmet law for certain people with medical and religious problems. These include those who must wear religious headgear, pedicab operators and their passengers, children under 12 who ride tricycles or play vehicles, cyclists with head circumferences larger than 64 centimetres (size 8 hat or larger) and those whose medical conditions make helmet use "unfeasible." The law covers all cyclists regardless of age. We have a copy of the official announcement up.

Harborview Study Released - September 10

Drs. Rivara and Thompson, who published landmark helmet research in 1989, have released a first summary of the results of a new study on the protective effect of helmets. They studied 3,390 injured cyclists and concluded that:
  • Helmets reduced the risk of brain injury by 65 percent, and severe brain injury by 74 percent (85% if adjusted as in the 1989 study).
  • Helmets worked equally well for all age groups examined and there was no evidence that a child helmet standard is needed.
  • Helmets worked well in crashes involving motor vehicles.
  • Helmets with hard shells, thin shells or no shell offer similar protection, but hard shell helmets may offer greater protection against severe brain injury. There was no effect on neck injuries.
  • Helmet damage was more often to the edge of the front portion of the helmet than any other site. Helmets did offer some facial protection.

    About 30% of the cyclists with severe brain injury were helmeted. The authors offer possible explanations, including poor fit (which they found to increase the risk of head injury by a factor of two), impacts outside of the protected zone and energy exceeding the design threshold of protection. About half of the helmets were damaged at the edge, indicating some need for protecting a greater area of the head, and possibly explaining why a hard shell helmet may offer more protection.

    The study's authors recommend that all cyclists wear helmets, that the addition of facial protection be considered, that additional coverage be provided, that fast cyclists consider protective clothing similar to that used by motorcyclists or ski racers, that educational campaigns and laws be used to increase helmet use and that environmental changes such as safer roads and separate bike lanes should be explored to reduce the frequency of crashes and the involvement of motor vehicles.

    While it is useful to confirm the results of the 1989 study, this research can provide additional results not yet covered in this initial summary. Seniors, who may need less dense foam in their helmets, are lumped in the over 40 group for this first writeup. While the summary indicates that there was no evidence based on severe brain injuries to support a separate child standard, it does not establish whether or not current child helmets are optimal. The fact that there was little helmet damage associated with some of the brain injuries may indicate that helmet foam is too stiff in addition to the fit problems the study mentions. There were only 15 helmeted cyclists with severe brain injuries, too few to determine with statistical significance if hard shells are really superior. The finding that neck injuries were not affected by wearing a helmet, or by what type of helmet it was, should lay that question to rest. There is clearly more to come from this important and well-done research project.

    The Snell Foundation, who funded the research, has the full study up on their server.


    Canadian Standard: Lower g's for Children

    The biggest news in standards this year is that CSA has adopted a new Canadian child helmet standard with much lower g levels than the usual 300 g used in all current U.S. standards. The new Canadian standard requires that helmets keep g levels recorded in the headform to no more than 200 g when helmet and headform are dropped from a height of 1.5 meters onto a flat anvil, representing the most likely crash surface. At 1.0 meters on the cylindrical anvil the maximum reading permitted is less, only 150 g. At the same time, the Canadian standard reduces the dropped mass for the smallest child headform to 3.1 kg rather than the U.S. requirement of 5.0 kg. This has the effect of reducing the energy in the test crash but requiring a softer landing for the head, which should result in less dense foam in Canadian child helmets. This provoked a statement by the Snell Foundation that the change was too radical, and had not been justified by research data demonstrating the need for change. (Snell itself has no child helmet standard.) The Canadians acknowledge that many current child helmets will be too stiff to pass the new standard, but believe that child helmet foam is in fact much too stiff for optimal protection.


    British Columbia Helmet Law Covers All Ages

    The Canadian west coast province of British Columbia has passed a helmet law effective September 3rd requiring helmets for all cyclists on public roads. Parks and bike paths are not covered, but may be added by individual municipalities. The law provides for a "rigorous" education and awareness campaign. The fine for non-compliance is $25. Children will not be ticketed, but their parents can be. The law specifies the same seven standards used by CPSC for its Interim Rule, unfortunately including ANSI Z90.4-1984 (much too easy to meet). Jocelyn Pedder, of BC's Rona Kinetics, had recommended allowing any bicycle helmet for the first year so those already riding with helmets would not penalized, then after one year permitting only helmets meeting the CSA standard to be sold and worn.


    Bell Returning to Financial Health?

    Bicycle Retailer and Industry News reports that Bell Sports, Inc has begun to improve its financial performance following its spurt of acquisitions. Bell now owns Giro, SportRack, American Recreation, Blackburn, Rhode Gear, VistaLite and CycleTech, plus some others. Consolidation of both its U.S. and Canadian operations permitted the company to show its first profit in recent years, totaling $624,000 in the quarter ending March 30. We have links to Bell's current stock price and financial reports on our Web server.


    London Helmet Use Exceeds Reputation

    This from Steve C, with a photo posted on his Web site: "A common sight in London. Most cyclists are commuters and commuters come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Contrary to the stories I'd heard prior to coming, helmets are very much the norm rather than the exception - about 2 for 1, about the same ratio I've seen in the states."


    Great Ideas: Oregon Produces Video for Police Officers

    Oregon's public safety officers have been reluctant to enforce the state's 1994 helmet law. To help them understand its importance, the Department of Human Resources has produced a video with interviews with the Governor and his wife, the Superintendent of State Police, the President of the State Sheriff's Association and the President of the Association of Chiefs of Police. The camera spends considerable time with a head-injured child, and notes that post-law helmet use has increased dramatically but not enough. Injuries have already been reduced from 95 in 1993 to 70 in 1994, when the trend line had predicted 120. But police and sheriffs can do more. This well-done 13 minute video is too Oregon-specific to just be shown elsewhere, but it is an idea that might be useful in other states. Produced by Claudia Black, who has moved on to another job, but you can contact her successor at the Bicycle Helmet Program, Oregon Department of Human Resources, 800 N. Oregon St, #825, Portland, OR 97232, phone (503) 731-4399. We have one copy to lend.


    Helmet Resource Center to Open in Fall - July, 1996

    This note from Phil Graitcer of the World Health Organization's Helmet Initiative:
    Emory Injury Prevention Center, Atlanta GA: Emory in partnership with Egleston Children's Health Care System is establishing The Helmet Resource Center, a program of the WHO Helmet Initiative. We will establish at Emory's Injury Center a resource center for questions and information about helmets - promotion, standards, types, laws, etc. Won't be limited to bicycle helmets. Plan to have a manned phone system, initially on a part time basis, with telephone answering and fax back services. We'll open in the fall, after the Olympics.

    Sound familiar? About time we had some competition! We'll be referring callers to them when the subject is non-bicycling helmets.

    Study Suggests Laws Work

    A new study just published in July in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine reports (according to the Washington Post--we haven't seen it yet) that a survey of parents indicated large increases in helmet use after the state passed a child helmet law. Parents were surveyed a month before the law went into effect in 1993 and over a five month period after. Those reporting that they owned a helmet for their kids went up from 39% to 57%, while positive responses on the question of whether or not the helmet was being used increased from 33% to 52%. The authors concluded that awareness of the law was a key factor.

    There are some red flags here. Where did they find a sample with 39% already owning helmets? Maybe they really measured 39% saying yes, whether they owned a helmet or not. And would you expect that percentage to rise after a negative response indicated you were breaking the law? And would you expect awareness of the law would be a key factor in deciding whether or not to say yes regardless of helmet ownership? And if these are the same parents, would they be more likely to buy a helmet after having been alerted that they are being surveyed?

    We continue to believe that the only valid helmet surveys are field counts.




    Study Suggests Helmets are too Expensive in New Zealand

    The abstract of a study published in the Australian Journal of Public Health last October indicates that the authors found that compulsory helmets were not as cost-effective as other studies have indicated. We don't know what helmets cost in New Zealand, but this study was based on the concept that the effective life of a helmet is about three years, and the authors say they have based their conclusions on helmet effectiveness at least partly on anecdotal evidence.


    UK Articles Debate Helmets: For and Against

    The March issue of the UK's Child: care, health and development has articles on Children and Cycle Helmets: the Case For and the Case Against. The case against concludes that helmet statistics may reflect other factors than just helmet effectiveness, since parents who buy helmets for their kids may also supervise them better and make sure they are in a safer environment. (In UK terms that is summed up "Child accident rates and the wearing of helmets both have a steep social class gradient.") The author also believes that cars are the main risk to child cyclists, that children should be able to ride in safety, and that "A profound change in the habits of adults is needed, rather than suits of armour for children." Some interesting ideas there.




    An update from Montreal Quebec Canada

    Date: Thursday, 11 Jul 96
    from Sam Boskey
    City Councillor
    sam_boskey@infobahnos.com

    During May, an all party- commission of Montreal City Council held hearings on the extension of the City's bike path network. While making its recommendations to Council following the hearings, the Commission recommended that the City of Montreal take a pro-mandatory helmet position at hearings that the Quebec provincial government will be holding shortly. (While various small municipalities in the Montreal area have their own by-laws, causing some inconvenience to those cycling from one suburb to another, the province is examining having one overall law.)

    On July 11, the City's Executive Committee deposited its response to the Commission's proposals, saying: NO. The City would not take a pro-mandatory helmet position.

    There is still a motion pending which might be voted on in September which would allow the full City Council to pronounce itself on the issue, but since one party controls a substantial majority and is now imposing severe discipline on its members, it is highly unlikely that the motion would be adopted.

    Opinion in the Montreal area has been, as elsewhere, split. Many parent and health groups are in favor, while the provincial federation Velo-Quebec and the Montreal based Le Monde a Bicyclette are against.


    ANSI Committee to Choose Snell or ASTM for ISO Secretariat - July 9

    Ed Becker of the Snell Foundation, the current Administrator for the US participation in the International Standards Organization committee on headgear, has sent out a ballot to all members of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group to ISO/TC94/SCI asking if they want to continue with Snell/ANSI administration or shift to the ASTM F-53 headgear committee as the administrator.

    At issue is the need to press ISO to develop a bicycle helmet standard which would bring the many current national standards closer to convergence. At present they are going their separate ways, with many parameters either differing significantly or actually conflicting with those adopted by other national standards bodies. Consumers will suffer if the standards create barriers to trade and their only helmet choices must come from their own national suppliers.

    The ballot was accompanied by letters of support from various sources, mainly manufacturers supporting ASTM and Channing Ewing of the Snell Board supporting Snell. The winning side will be the U.S. Administrator for the TAG and will then apply to ISO to head up the committee.

    We returned our ballot supporting the ASTM solution. The Snell Foundation has a long and distinguished track record in this activity, and Ed Becker is as competent a helmet standards developer as can be found, but ASTM has its priorities more directly in line with making progress in ISO, and we think it is the better choice.


    Inventor Selling Helmet Patents - July 9 (updated 3/99)

    Inventor Offering Helmet Patents and/or Seeking Assistance Terry Glatt has put up two helmet patents for sale, license, and/or production assistance. The patents are for "illuminated safety helmets" (bicycle, in-line skating, etc.). Integrated LEDs and removable circuit/battery housing. Very clean and light weight design." Glatt says, "I am interested in working with a company or individual with expertise in bringing a helmet to market. The patents are issued and a prototype is available -- I need assistance developing a certifiable, production design." The inventor is Terry Glatt, MSEE, MBA, President, TecKnowledgy, inc. (954) 783-2290 Fax: (954) 783-2289 email:Terry@TecKnowledgy.com


    Austin Dissidents Organize Helmet Law Protest

    Opponents of the Austin, Texas, all-ages helmet law organized a protest on July 11th against the new city ordinance. They have continued to protest since, and the City has considered minor modifications to the law to placate them. Politicians in most other states and cities have limited their helmet laws to children to avoid antagonizing adults. In September Austin agreed to permit medically-necessary exceptions to the law with a physician's statement approved by the city's health department.


    Germany's Bike Magazine Launches Helmet Promotion

    Germany's top bike magazine has launched a six-issue helmet promotion campaign, complete with their own magazine coverage, TV spots and more hoop-la. Sponsors for the campaign include Bell, Giro (should that be BellGiro or Bell/Giro or BellboughtGiro?) Louis Garneau and Sachs. The campaign opened with their May issue and is limited to Germany. This is an interesting concept, and the first time we have seen a bike magazine care enough to take on an advocacy campaign in this way for any issue. Hats off to Bike!


    "Toy" Helmets Appear on U.S. Market

    A resident of West Virginia informed us that the Value City Department Store in their area was selling "toy" helmets which had no standards sticker and no energy management foam. The helmets did have a sticker warning that the helmet was a toy helmet and not intended for skateboarding, bicycling, etc. But the helmets were on the shelf with the store's bicycle helmets despite the label, and were selling for $2. When this resident approached the manager about the helmets he was told that they would be pulled and sent back. Instead they were moved to the store's closeout table and discounted to 85 cents.

    Can this helmet be sold with bicycle accessories in the U.S. market? Does a sticker of this nature protect the manufacturer against the requirements of the CPSC Interim Rule on helmets? We have asked CPSC's Compliance division to look into this helmet, and the West Virginian sent us samples which we passed on to CPSC. Their staff says the matter is "in compliance proceedings" and they can not discuss it with us at present.


    Study Recommends 200 g Fail Point

    A recent study by an Australian-German team has concluded that current standards are setting their injury threshold too high. The study was done by McIntosh, et al, and is titled "An Evaluation of Pedal Cycle Helmet Performance Requirements." It concludes that current 300 g standards (all U.S. standards) and the 400 g Australian standard are tolerating far too much impact energy to the wearer's head. Injuries were found to occur at much lower levels, averaging only 180 g, as opposed to the old data which indicated that up to 400 g did not cause injury. And testing of current helmets showed the good ones to all be easily capable of meeting a much lower g standard. The team recommends lowering the permissible g level in lab testing to 200 g. You can order this paper from SAE for $10 by its number, 952713.


    Pediatric News At Your Desktop features CPSC Study

    An Internet service which provides "a has an article in their current edition abstracting Greg Rodgers' study for CPSC on head injuries. They express no reservations about sampling techniques.

    International Conference in Australia: Helmet Highlights

    The Third International Conference on Injury Prevention in Melbourne from February 18 through 24 features at least one helmet session dealing with the World Health Organization's Helmet Initiative and chaired of course by Dr. Phillip Graitcer. Here is a partial list of helmet papers to be presented at the session.

    3:00 - 3:15pm - MOTORCYCLE INJURIES OF STUDENTS IN TAIWAN

    3:15 - 3:30pm - INCREASING BICYCLE HELMET EFFECTIVENESS: WHAT CHANGES ARE NEEDED?

    3:30 - 3:45pm - THE EFFECT OF HELMET USE ON THE SEVERITY OF HEAD AND CERVICAL SPINE INJURIES IN VICTIMS OF MOTORCYCLE AND MOPED ACCIDENTS. A PROSPECTIVE ANALYSIS.

    4:00 - 4:15pm - TRENDS IN CYCLE INJURY IN NEW ZEALAND UNDER VOLUNTARY HELMET USE

    4:15 - 4:30pm - MULTILEVEL APPROACH TO PASSING AND IMPLEMENTING BICYCLE HELMET LEGISLATION: THE NEW YORK STATE EXPERIENCE

    4:30 - 4:45pm - THE IMPACT OF TWO RELATED PREVENTION STRATEGIES ON HEAD INJURY REDUCTION AMONG NON-FATALLY INJURED MOTORCYCLE RIDERS

    5:15 - 5:30pm - CORRELATION BETWEEN BICYCLE HELMET DAMAGE AND HEAD INJURIES

    The 3:15 paper and that last paper are the first readouts from the long-awaited Harborview study of child helmets, sure to be a landmark in this field.

    You also don't want to miss the session on "Prevention of Injuries Associated with Dairy Cows," not to mention Session 7 - KIDS: BE SAFE LIKE TROO THE TRAUMAROO! Look for a lot of new stuff to begin circulating after the conference. Hopefully someone will send some of it here!


    Consumer Product Safety Commission
    Publishes Second Draft of Bike Helmet Standard

    CPSC has published for comment the second draft of its bicycle helmet standard. The deadline for comments is February 20. We have some suggestions for comments, of course, in addition to the full text of the standard and CPSC's Supplementary Material. We also have a brief page up explaining two of the major changes.


    New Australian Study Available

    We have a new study from Australia which will be an invaluable resource for fighting the Helmet Wars on the Internet. This is the most valuable reference currently available for anyone starting research on bicycle helmets. Seasoned bio-medical researcher Dr. Michael Henderson has digested the available literature and laid out chapters on why cyclists need helmets, crash and injury characteristics, the basic biomechanics of head injury, and effectiveness of helmets, mandatory laws and more. He fits the most important findings of hundreds of diverse studies into a framework, adding judgment and perspective along the way. Facts abound, and at least half of the sentences contain statistics. Uses Australian experience as a starting point, but this is an international study. Here are the answers for the Internet Helmet Wars. This study can save you hours of plowing through our bibliography!


    Bell Grows, Goes Discount, Buys Everybody in Sight, Loses Money!

    Bell is no longer using Snell certification, and is instead promoting the ASTM standard, with an eight million dollar advertising campaign. Bell is now selling Bell brand helmets in discount stores for the first time, and is bringing out a more expensive line for sale exclusively in bike shops called Bell Pro. We have an article on those actions from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. In late June, Bell Sports Incorporated completed its merger with American Recreation. The new company says it has 70% of the world helmet market. You can read the new company's press release or get a quote on Bell's miserably low stock price by entering the BSPT symbol in this form. Then in December Bell announced the acquisition of Giro Sports Design, another major producer of high-end helmets. We have an article from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News on that development, including a quote from a competitive manufacturer who hopes the merger will reduce competition and raise helmet prices. In the same issue of BRIN there is an article on Bell's expected losses this year. And in the March 1, 1996 issue is an article on the actual loss in the second quarter. For another, perhaps unique, view of the Bell/Giro merger, see the Bike Pro page.


    ANSI Renewing Expired Standard

    The ANSI Z90.4 bicycle helmet standard committee has met twice since April, deciding in its June meeting to adopt the ASTM bicycle helmet standard in order to harmonize the two standards. This action should be completed real soon now.


    BASF Pushing Expanded PolyPropylene for Helmets

    We heard recently from BASF's marketing people who are looking for bicycle helmet manufacturers interested in their EPP resin and a new process for making helmets. BASF sent us a sample helmet made with the new process, which features pre-heating of the helmet mold to melt the first layer of bead into a tough EPP skin. Then the rest of the bead is hit with steam under pressure and *bingo* you have a fully-formed helmet, thin shell already on it. The helmet looks good. The EPP material is resilient, and helmets made from it can be certified under multiple-impact standards. Unfortunately, BASF said it costs about 50 cents more per helmet than the standard EPS, which makes it a tough sell in the current market where margins are thin. One manufacturer, Aria Sonics, has been making EPP helmets for years and claiming advantages for them, but the company encountered difficulties in marketing this new material, and is now defunct. They had estimated the extra cost of EPP over EPS to be on the order of $1.50 or $2 per helmet rather than BASF's 50 cents, but believed that this material's advantages would eventually be recognized. We suggested to BASF that if they can make the outer skin reflective or mold in the in graphics in this new process they will have something.


    CPSC Announces Amnesty Program for Manufacturers

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced on August 17 a new program to permit manufacturers to 'fess up about flawed products they have not reported in the past without a penalty. There may be some helmet manufacturers who will take advantage of the amnesty, which will be available to them for six months. We have a copy of the CPSC press release available.


    We Got Two Stars

    Ziff-Davis' David Haskin has ranked us as one of the top cycling sites on the Internet!


    Safe Kids has a new video!

    The Safe Kids National Campaign has produced a new video targeted at kids up to age 14. It successfully avoids preaching by adults, letting a group of normal kids tell the story without a single older authority figure in the video, letting the audience reach its own conclusions rather than dealing out heavy doses of "Wear a helmet." The title is Jello in a Jar, and there is a Jello drop to illustrate what can happen to a brain. There is a moving interview with a boy who has been head-injured without a helmet, who sits on the edge of a picnic table describing how his life fell apart and concludes that "it sucks." The kids are mostly very natural, teasing each other and joking around. The music sounds offensive to adult ears, so it must be right. The cutting and editing is reminiscent of MTV. This is the best attempt we have seen to make a kids video the way kids want it, masterminded by Safe Kids staffer Sarah Everhart, who worked carefully with teen focus groups to get it right. The video is available now from Safe Kids' order department (Ida Allen) at (800) 289-0117 or (502) 452-8516. Ask for the Safe Kids Cycle Smart video titled Jello in a Jar, Item # 0087. It costs $23.


    An email from: Charles Pekow - cpekow@CapAccess.org

    Teaching elementary school children about the importance of bicycle helmets increases their use dramatically. Or so says a study recently published by the American Public Health Assn. Researchers followed a four-year helmet promotion campaign in Quebec. They found that before the study, almost no children used helmets, whereas one-third did afterward. That leaves quite a bit of room for improvement but it also no doubt saved some young lives.

    One problem: the education campaign worked much more effectively in wealthier communities than in poor ones. Evidently, lower-class children couldn't afford helmets, even though the campaign included coupons to lower helmet price.

    The project included posters, pamphlets, games, awards for helmet use, etc.

    For more info, see the January issue of the American Journal of Public Health.



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