Thursday, April 18, 2013

Will obligatory helmets impact the number of serious injuries for cyclists?

Brought to you by our friends at Grieves Solicitors

It is a debate which is continually addressed, reignited yet still controversial: the mandatory cycle helmet. The UK is embracing cycling, with more and more people choosing two wheels as their favoured mode of transport.

Between 2011/12 there were some startling cycling related statistics:
  • 594 cyclists were injured from car doors opening
  • 3,085 cyclists were seriously injured on UK roads
  • 122 cyclists died in 2012 – the highest figure in five years
  • The number of cycling related accidents has increased every year since 2004
  • Yet the number of people who have been surveyed as commuting by bike is 760,000
The number of serious injuries, yet the increased interest in cycling for travel or leisure, suggests that something needs to be done to tackle the risks. Mandatory cycle helmets are one of the ideas put forward to make cycling safer, but many disagree with such a decision.

The calls for mandatory helmets
Many academics, enthusiasts and officials believe that compulsory helmets can go some way to minimising serious injury in cycling accidents. Most, however, believe that more needs to be done in terms of making cycling safer; the roads and road users being the root cause of cycling injuries, but that helmets will help reduce injuries in the short-term.

Legal firms are seeing more and more compensation claims for cycling accidents, and an increase in serious injury claims. Many argue that if cycling helmets were worn, it would eradicate some of the serious, and possibly life threatening injuries, especially to the head.

However many have argued fiercely against mandatory helmets.

Those against any change in law
In a paper written for the Transport Planning Committee, James Gleave wrote that the use of helmets in built-up cities has increased from 16% in 1994 to an estimated 34.3% in 2008, a figure which doesn’t correlate with the number of injuries or fatalities on UK roads.

Many argue that making cycling helmets obligatory will only assist in papering over the issues on Britain’s roads and encourage more concentration to be placed on driver’s reactions to cyclists, cycle lanes and the standard of roads to minimise the number of injuries. Although helmets may reduce serious injuries to the head, it would not affect the number of accidents; a figure which many believe is much more integral to the debate.

It seems there is a stark contrast in opinions, which has also split the general public and cycling community. Across the debate, two arguments have arisen, one based on road safety and one based on medical precautions. No one can argue that wearing a cycle helmet will reduce serious injuries to the head in an accident; however, wearing a cycle helmet doesn’t affect the overall figures of crashes. Many feel it is road safety as a whole which needs to be addressed, and that making cycle helmets a legal requirement is simply brushing over what is a growing issue on our roads.

Grieves Solicitors is a Huddersfield-based personal injury specialist with vast experience in the field. For more information, visit

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