Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

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The Helmet Update

Vol. 8, No. 1 - April, 1990

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Consumer Reports Will Publish a Helmet Article!

The May issue of Consumer Reports, which should be out when this Update reaches you, will contain a full-blown article on bicycle helmets, complete with impact testing results. This is the first article on bicycle helmets they have done. We are very pleased that the country's premier consumer product testing service is rating helmets. The article should provide a boost to helmet promotion campaigns. CU never discusses articles prior to publication, but this one is guaranteed to be worth reading. Because of their reprint policies we do not expect to be able to offer it as a BHSIDOC, but you can get a copy for $4 by sending your request for the May issue to: CONSUMER REPORTS, P. O. Box 53016, Boulder, CO 80322-3016. You can count on seeing a review of the article in the next Update.

ANSI Committee Moving Slowly on Revision of Standard

The revised ANSI Z90.4 Bicycle Helmet standard is still under revision. In September a revised draft was sent around to committee members for comment, and comments have been submitted to the Committee's secretariat. A "final" draft should be in the works as this Update is mailed, and the revision could be in place by the end of this year. As we have noted before, the biggest changes will be an increase in the flat anvil drop height from 1.0 to 1.5 meters and testing for strap strength after the impact tests.

Wayne State Study on Sliding Resistance of Hard Shells vs. Soft Shells is Almost Ready for Release

As we reported in the last issue, Professor Voigt Hodgson of Wayne State University in Detroit has completed a series of lab tests designed to show if soft shell helmets are "stickier" when they hit pavement than hard shells. In a high-speed crash that extra sliding resistance might increase rotational injury to the brain or strain on the neck. Prof. Hodgson's preliminary comments indicated that there are indeed differences, in part dependent on the angle of the impact, with 45 degrees the worst. In some cases a helmet with more sliding resistance (read "without hard shell") was observed to "hang up" on the pavement block, then release suddenly, snapping the neck into extension. This is a very dangerous situation for the rider.

Professor Hodgson is publishing his results soon through the Michigan Department of Public Health. We hope to send you the published report with a future Update. He is also resuming his testing with additional variables such as pavement roughness and different angles of impact, so we can look forward to more data from him sometime this summer.

Johnson & Johnson/Safe Kids Campaign was a Smashing Success

The helmet promotion sponsored by Johnson and Johnson in coordination with the Safe Kids Are No Accident campaign achieved visible results in our area. Judging by the comments of parents who contact us for information it had a nationwide impact. Safe Kids' year of exclusive concentration on helmets has ended, but their staff says they will continue to be active on helmet promotions. They have just published a nicely-done teachers' guide jointly with Scholastic News (sponsored by Bell Helmets) which is available from them (see Safe Kids on the attached listing of new documents).

EPP Helmets Hit the Street

Expanded polypropylene (EPP) helmet liners or complete helmets are being introduced to compete with the ones now made of expanded polystyrene (EPS). Manufacturers using EPP claim some advantages over EPS, including multi-impact capabilities which may not require the user to throw away a helmet after the first crash. We are skeptical, particularly after examining an EPP helmet (the AKTA from Sweden) and finding that it closely resembles EPS. We will not know until it is tested by an independent lab, and of course we do not have our own lab yet. So the helmet-using community will have to wait a while for the verdict on this new material.

Standards Comparison Adds Canadian Standard

We have revised our Comparison of Bicycle Helmet Standards (BHSIDOC #185) to include the final published version of the new Canadian standard. We hope to have a copy of the Italian standard soon, and are still looking for a translation of the Japanese standard. The comparison now includes seven standards and we send it out for $4. (Note: available now only on the web.)

BHSI Documentation Center Tops 300 Documents

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute Documentation Center now has a total of 302 documents. Attached is an update of the annotated bibliography you have already received with previous Updates. Most of the documents are available from us. Please remember that we are always looking for studies, articles, pamphlets, and almost anything about helmets not on our list. We update the bibliography at least once a week. You can get a new copy by phoning or writing us, sending $5. We provide it on paper or an IBM PC compatible 5.25" DSDD disk. (Note: BHSI closed the Documentation Center after putting up its website in 1995.)

BHSI: Some Things Change But We Are Still Seeking Funding for our Test Rig and Other Encouragement

As you will note, BHSI has a new logo and new address. We also have a fax machine, which we are using daily. It is on the same line as the voice telephone, but a switch keeps the two separate.

We are still seeking funding for our test laboratory, and continue to be unsuccessful with the foundations we have approached. If you can suggest possible sources of funds we would like to hear from you. We like to hear from you anyway to stay in touch and keep you on our mailing list. Send us a new document, a note on something you observe about helmet use in the field, or whatever. Thanks!

The Helmet Update - Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute
Randy Swart, Editor
4611 Seventh Street South
Arlington, VA 22204-1419 USA
(703) 486-0100 (voice)
(703) 486-0576 (fax)