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Monday, March 19,2012

Doctors Argue Against Mandatory Bike Helmet Laws

A mandatory bike helmet law is under consideration in British Parliament, and two physicians are arguing against the idea. Their take is that there simply isn’t enough evidence to support that helmet use saves lives, and that the evidence that does exist is contradictory at best.

But they also present a few compelling moral arguments against helmet laws for cyclists — and, also, for skiers, paddlers, and even pedestrians.

The authors, Carwyn Hooper and John Spicer of the University of London, do acknowledge that their thinking is unconventional (the British Medical Association backs passage of the law, for example) but they explain what they think is a flaw in the BMA’s logic: namely, that bike helmets protect people well when they fall off bikes and onto the pavement (all standard bike helmet tests are drops, where a helmet is dropped from about shoulder height onto a flat anvil). But helmets aren’t sturdy enough to protect against brain and skull injuries caused by impact with a car or flying off the bike forward or backward the way motorcycle helmets do. (They are in favor of compulsory helmet use for motorcycles because they say there’s clear evidence that it reduces fatalities and injury.)


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