Do you have a helmet law in your state? Your county? Your city? Your village? Your township?
Odd questions? Not really, according to the most up to date statistics I can find [The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute] there are 22 states and 192 separate local helmet laws in the United States. These laws are chronicled in a chart which you can find here.
For example, in Ohio there is no state law, at this point, but 22 separate burgs have passed laws. These range from big [Cincinnati, Columbus] to medium [Akron, East Cleveland, Marietta] to small [Waynesville, Enon]. In Hamilton County, the Cincinnati and Blue Ash laws cover you if you are under 16, but the Madiera law applies if you are under 17. In Dayton, only those under 13 are covered but if you ride to Kettering, only those under 16 are covered. Up near Cleveland, the law in Euclid applies to those under 14, but the law says wear a helmet til you’re 18 in East Cleveland! In Shaker Heights, you’d better strap one on if you’re over the age of FIVE!
Helmets have not prevented one crash. They do, in my view, from time to time prevent injuries from crashes from being worse than they might otherwise be. However, by focusing on “safe crashing” and not safe riding, such laws send the wrong message.
MANY, many more motorists suffer head injuries than cyclists. MANY, many more motorists die each year in traffic crashes than cyclists. In Ohio, less than 20 people die each year riding their bikes. However, almost 1200 motorists were killed. Of the 564,000 vehicles involved in crashes on Ohio’s road, only 2000 bicycles were involved. Of the 112,000 total injuries from crashes on Ohio’s roads in 2008, only 1500 involved bicycle riders. You can read about Ohio’s Crash Facts here. The Ohio State Highway Patrol publishes an outstanding book of crash statistics each year.
Cycling represents a VERY small part of the traffic crash/fatality picture. Cycling is VERY safe. The emphasis on helmet laws is, to me, misplaced. It represents an “easy” knee jerk reaction to a non-problem.
More on the Helmet Debate later… Even though it does NOT back me up, here’s my favorite cartoon…