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Three CREAL researchers have expressed reluctance to approve the Government's mandatory helmet-use law for cyclists in urban areas

Wednesday, October 31th, 2012

Three CREAL researchers have expressed reluctance to approve the Government's mandatory helmet-use law for cyclists in urban areas

Although it is estimated that helmet use could decrease by 88% head injuries and 65% facial injuries, three CREAL researchers have claimed in a letter published in Gaceta Sanitaria that implementing laws to force the use of helmets to reduce health risks may produce greater adverse effects on the health of the population, such as reducing the use of bicycles in the population or encouraging risky behavior among cyclists.

In fact, researchers Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, David Rojas and Tom Cole-Hunter have referred to a recent publication that evaluates the mandatory helmet-use law for cyclists in New Zealand. This assessment concluded that the law had failed in improving safety and health, preventing accidents, promoting cycling, and supporting environmental and civil liberties. Also, it was found that the law had reduced the time spent cycling within the population by 51%, and the risk of injury among cyclists had increased by 20%. Reports of other cases, such as Canada, have concluded that such mandatory helmet-use laws have not met the planned objectives. Furthermore, risk analyses developed for Europe show that some laws will not improve the health of the population.

Taking this evidence into account, the researchers state that "the use of helmets by cyclists should be a personal choice and as an individual decision may benefit and reduce the severity of injuries in cyclists, but it is a law that may also bring higher negative health impacts for the population". They add that "if cyclists are forced to wear a helmet in urban areas then probably the desired objective, which is to improve the health of the population, will not be meet… and to implement other measures, such as pacification of traffic, reduction of car use, improvement of infrastructure for cyclists, promotion of cycling and inter-modality, will more effectively achieve population health goals".

It was in July of 2012 when the Ministerio de Interior from the Spanish Government announced a draft reform of General Traffic Regulations (RGC), which is proposed to include the mandatory use of helmets by cyclists on all roads, including urban areas. Until today, in Spain, the helmet is compulsory for cyclists only when using inter-city roads, according to Article 118 of the RGC.

DOI: 10.1016/j.gaceta.2012.08.005


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