Macquarie University - Actuarial Studies
February 24, 2010
This article seeks to answer the question whether mandatory bicycle helmet laws deliver a net societal health benefit. The question is addressed using a simple model. The model recognizes a single health benefit -- reduced head injuries, and a single health cost -- reduced cycling.
Using estimates suggested in the literature of the effectiveness of helmets, the health benefits of cycling, head injury rates, and reductions in cycling, leads to the following conclusions. In jurisdictions where cycling is safe, a helmet law is likely to have a large unintended negative health consequence. In jurisdiction where cycling is relatively unsafe, helmets will do little to make it safer and a helmet law, under relatively extreme assumptions may make a small positive contribution to net societal health. As such, helmet legislation appears to be a distraction from the main bicycle related health issue: the safety of the bicycling environment. The model serves to focus the mandatory bicycle helmet law debate on overall health. The methodology developed in this article is can be used in other situations where safety initiatives are proposed for healthy activities.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 13
Keywords: Bicycling, helmets, cost benefit analysisWorking Paper Series
Full Article: click here
Number of bicycles sold and number of fatalities:
Riding a bike for transport - 2011 survey findings - by the Cycling Promotion Fund