Helmet Briefs from the Past
Summary: Older helmet briefs retired from our main helmet briefs page.
(November 29, 1999)
Study: Helmets and Laws in New York State
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
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.
(July 13, 1999)
Book and Video: A Helmet Away From Heaven
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.
(July 7, 1999)
Rad Rider is a Cool Site!
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.)
(June 3, 1999)
Maine Passes Helmet Law
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.
(May 26, 1999)
Bicycling has a bit on BHSI
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."
(May 15, 1999)
Consumer Reports Publishes a New Helmet Article!
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.
(April 21, 1999)
CPSC and McDonald's Announce Helmet Promotion Campaign
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.
(March 23, 1999)
Consumer Reports announces helmet article
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.
(Reported to us in March, 1999)
Seymour, Connecticut Repeals Helmet Law
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
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
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
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
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.
(March 11, 1998)
CPSC Publishes New Standard
Effective March 10 1999
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
British Columbia Coroner Publishes Report
Consumer Reports Planning Helmet Article
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
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
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
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)
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.
Snell Establishes Education Center
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.
Harborview Publishes in JAMA!
In general, they faithfully reported Snell's views
on nearly everything, including the Snell interpretation of why many manufacturers have fled to ASTM.
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:
CPSC Revises Schedule for Bicycle Helmet Standard - December, 1996
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.
- Children's standard - g level
- Curbstone anvil - How to specify its use in the impact schedule
- Test Rig: Monorail or Twin wire
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.
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.
ASTM Has Inline Skating Helmet Standard - December, 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.
Bell Agrees to Produce Oversized Helmet - November 12, 1996
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.
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.
BC Grants Exemptions to Helmet Law - September 29
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
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
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.
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.
British Columbia Helmet Law Covers All Ages
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.
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."
London Helmet Use Exceeds Reputation
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.
Great Ideas: Oregon Produces Video for Police Officers
This note from Phil Graitcer of the World Health Organization's Helmet Initiative:
Helmet Resource Center to Open in Fall - July, 1996
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.
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.
Study Suggests Helmets are too Expensive in New Zealand
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.
UK Articles Debate Helmets: For and Against
Date: Thursday, 11 Jul 96
An update from Montreal Quebec Canada
from Sam Boskey
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.
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
ANSI Committee to Choose Snell or ASTM for ISO Secretariat - July 9
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 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
Inventor Selling Helmet Patents - July 9 (updated 3/99)
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 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!
Germany's Bike Magazine Launches Helmet Promotion
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.
"Toy" Helmets Appear on U.S. Market
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.
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
Study Recommends 200 g Fail Point
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.
Pediatric News At Your Desktop features CPSC Study
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
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!
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.
Consumer Product Safety Commission
Publishes Second Draft of Bike Helmet Standard
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!
New Australian Study Available
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.
Bell Grows, Goes Discount, Buys Everybody in Sight, Loses Money!
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.
ANSI Renewing Expired Standard
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
BASF Pushing Expanded PolyPropylene for Helmets
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.
CPSC Announces Amnesty Program for Manufacturers
Ziff-Davis' David Haskin has ranked us as one of the top cycling sites on the Internet!
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.
Safe Kids has a new video!
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.
An email from: Charles Pekow - cpekow@CapAccess.org
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
For more info, see the January issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
This page was updated or partially revised on: October 27, 2016.