Helmet Briefs from the Past
Summary: Older helmet briefs retired from our main helmet briefs page. Some links have been removed to prevent
Study: Helmets and Laws in New York State
(November 29, 1999)
The November, 1999, issue of the American Journal of Public Health
has an article by Dr. Douglas R. Puder et. al.
of the Department of Pediatrics, Nyack Hospital, Nyack NY which concludes that helmet legislation can be important in
boosting levels of helmet usage. It also gives realistic estimates for helmet usage in the three counties surveyed based
on actual observation in the summer of 1995.
Dr. Puder and his colleagues observed cyclists in New York's Rockland and Westchester counties, and in Fairfield County,
Connecticut to provide data for evaluating the effectiveness of the counties' helmet laws. At that time, Rockland
required all cyclists of all ages to wear helmets. In Westchester the New York state law covered all cyclists under age
14. In Fairfield County, the Connecticut state law required helmets for riders under 12. (Connecticut has since raised
its age to under 15.) In Rockland and Westchester counties there is a potential fine of $50 for infractions, although in
most localities such fines are rarely levied.
Puder and his colleagues observed nearly 1,000 cyclists at 51 sites in the three counties over the course of that summer.
After factoring in their ages they concluded that cyclists in Rockland County, with the strictest helmet law, had the
highest rate of helmet use (35 per cent). Riders in Westchester County had a helmet usage rate of 24 per cent. Cyclists
in Fairfield County, with the most lenient law, wore helmets only 14 per cent of the time.
The study concludes that an all-ages helmet law is effective in raising helmet usage, although the authors did not take
into account educational factors which may have affected the totals. They ignored the possible effects of school programs
or local helmet promotion efforts.
In addition to the overall numbers, the study states that teen helmet usage was 17 per cent in Rockland County, 8 per
cent in Westchester and 4 per cent in Fairfield. Follow up sampling in 1999 indicated that in Rockland teen helmet use is
now up to 35 per cent.
SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health 1999;89:1736-1738.
Book and Video: A Helmet Away From Heaven
(July 13, 1999)
Judy Pence has published a book titled A Helmet Away From Heaven, an account of her son's ordeal after his bicycle crash.
Jeff Pence was lucky to have a helmet on that day, since his head injury was substantial and would most likely have been
fatal without head protection. He spent time in a coma, and later in rehabilitation The story covers the time before and
after the crash, including Jeff's embarrassment returning to school in the fall with scars and missing hair patches on
his head. Pence Publishing also has a 15 minute video narrated by Jeff for grades 4-10. Both are available from Pence
Publishing Company. The video has hospital scenes to leave an impression of how bad Jeff's injury was, but the message is
complicated a little because he did in fact have a helmet on, and was injured anyway. If the strap was as loose as the
one he wears in the simulation, he was lucky if the helmet was actually in place to take the blow. Anyway, this is not a
"formula" video or book and may be worth a look if you are planning a bike safety campaign, since it starts with helmets
but proceeds quickly enough to broader safety concepts. And you can always use it to challenge your students to
distinguish which of the actors is wearing a properly adjusted helmet.
Rad Rider is a Cool Site!
(July 7, 1999)
An HMO in California has put a site up that breaks new ground. If we are too serious for you, this is your site! The
whole site is totally cool and absolutely graphic. You do need Shockwave to see their pages, but everything moves and the
advanced graphics are worth the visit. There is a whole 20-page comic book there, for example. The HMO has developed a
package of materials for schools and ties their website into homework, with an interactive test for kids to take home to
work on with their parents that give instant feedback on correct responses when done on line. This is a dynamite site!
(Note: WAS a dynamite site. It has disappeared as of July, 2003.)
Maine Passes Helmet Law
(June 3, 1999)
The State of Maine has just become the 16th state to pass a bicycle helmet law. The Maine helmet requirement was
contained in their Bicycle Safety Education Act, and covers all riders under 16. The helmet required is defined as one
that meets the CPSC standard. There is no fine associated with non-compliance, but a police officer can stop an
unhelmeted rider and provide them with bicycle safety information and info on where to get a helmet. Municipalities are
apparently permitted to go beyond the state law, at least for the education provisions of the act. The law will come into
effect later this year, 90 days after the adjournment of the Maine legislature, which is still in session. Maine Safe
Kids and its coordinator Bob Bull lead the charge for the law, assisted by a small grant from the National Safe Kids
Bicycling has a bit on BHSI
(May 26, 1999)
The July issue of Bicycling
magazine has a nice blurb on us in a column called Group Guide, in the Shorts section
on p. 32. It is a very short article that manages in a few words to capture the essence of this organization. We will
grant them poetic license for their one bit of exaggeration:
"Where would we be without them: Wearing Skid-Lids and leather hairnets, wondering why so many of our friends are in
Consumer Reports Publishes a New Helmet Article!
(May 15, 1999)
has a new article on bicycle helmets in their June issue. It is well-written and concise, with
ratings for 12 adult helmets, 8 youth models and four for children. Eight of the models are produced by Bell or Giro, a
Bell subsidiary, reflecting Bell's large market share and the general availability of their helmets everywhere in the US.
The Louis Garneau Globe was the only model to receive the highest rating for impact protection.
The Bell EVO-2 Pro
and Trek Vapor were ranked equally with it however, despite receiving a lower impact rating than the Globe, apparently
based on better rolloff resistance for the Bell and better ventilation. We like the well-rounded profile of both the
Globe and the Bell, but we think the partial external shell of the EVO-2 Pro is a fashion quirk that consumers should
avoid. (See our comments on both helmets in our long report on Helmets for 1999
.) The Trek
Vapor for $32 is considered a Best Buy.
The article has ratings for the impact protection, strap, ventilation and fit of each helmet. Due to the conciseness of
this article we don't know exactly how they arrived at the impact ratings, but if your helmet is not among those reviewed
they recommend you look for a CPSC sticker inside. The article is available for a fee on the Consumer Reports website
. We recommend it highly. We have a longer review of the article
up as well.
CPSC and McDonald's Announce Helmet Promotion Campaign
(April 21, 1999)
The Consumer Product Safety Commission and McDonald's have launched a helmet promotion campaign, including a website and
a study on helmet usage that concludes that half of the nation's bicycle riders are wearing helmets (!). Although we
don't agree with the study's optimistic numbers, we welcome the cool website and sent out an Email
about the campaign. Note: the site is gone in 2003.
Consumer Reports announces helmet article
(March 23, 1999)
included in their April, 1999 issue the information that they will soon publish a new bicycle
helmet article. It will be a welcome update to their previous one
, done in 1997.
Seymour, Connecticut Repeals Helmet Law
(Reported to us in March, 1999)
The town of Seymour, Connecticut, has repealed its bicycle helmet law, the first we have heard of. The referendum on it
failed by a considerable margin, attributed by at least one town resident to having it linked to a smoking ordinance on
the same ballot.
Evaluation of Bicycle Safety Programs
Available on the web
The Washington State Traffic Safety Commission and Harborview Injury Prevention Research Center have published a study of
Training Programs for Bicycle Safety. The study discusses general themes in bicycle safety training, including goals,
program length and where training should be undertaken. It then evaluates 27 programs on the basis of Target Age Group,
Length of Program, Objectives, Type of Training and Evaluation. There is a section in the opening Overview discussing
helmets. The authors are Dr. Frederick Rivara, who has published a number of fine studies on helmet effectiveness, and
PTI Cutting Expenses, Jobs
An article in the January 1 issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News quotes a Reuters article saying that helmet maker
Protective Technologies International has announced that it will cut expenses in 1999 by about ten percent, or $1.25
million. The company will cut some jobs in January, saving about a half million dollars. PTI makes bicycle and skate
helmets, as well as other protective equipment including wrist and knee guards for skaters. Their helmets sell through
mass merchants, including Toys R Us, typically in the $10 to $30 price range.
SEI Certifies 14 Bell models to the CPSC Standard
The Safety Equipment Institute has issued certifications for a number of Bell helmet models, certifying that they meet
the Consumer Product Safety Commission's bicycle helmet standard. The CPSC standard becomes a legal requirement for any
helmet manufactured for the U.S. market after March 10, 1999, but helmets manufactured up until that date can get by with
meeting only the 1984 ANSI standard (easily met) or the ASTM standard (comparable to CPSC). SEI has been providing
independent certification to the ASTM standard, and now is having helmets tested to the CPSC standard and issuing
certifications. They have certified to the CPSC standard Bell's EVO, EVO2, Intercooler, Nemesis, Nemesis II and Sonar for
adults. For toddlers there are the Cool Cap, L'il Bell 98, Headwinds toddler, Li'l Animals, and Pilot. In addition the
child or youth models of the Passport, Phantom, Rattler and Scout are on the SEI certified list. SEI is an independent
non-profit with a website at www.seinet.org
. Other models and manufacturers will
follow, so check there for the most recent update of their list of helmets certified to
the CPSC standard
The only way to be sure that any helmet on a dealer's shelf is actually one of the models certified by SEI is to verify
that there is a sticker inside that says the helmet meets the CPSC standard. The older models meeting only the ASTM
standard are very similar in protection, but some of them -- even those whose model name has not changed and whose
appearance is still similar -- may lack the additional coverage and impact protection required by the new CPSC standard.
Consumers should expect heavy discounts in 1999 on helmets that do not have a CPSC standard sticker inside.
Bicycle Helmet Developments in 1999
There will be some interesting new developments in helmets in 1999. Styles and models are not changing much, but the
Consumer Product Safety Commission standard becomes law for all helmets manufactured after March 10, 1999. The standard
is more rigorous in some respects than the ASTM standard it will largely replace, and much more rigorous than the old
1984 ANSI standard. The differences are small in most cases if the helmet meets the ASTM standard. Older helmets will
still be on the dealers' shelves, and should be bargains even though they may be slightly less protective than those
meeting the CPSC standard. Some manufacturers have always exceeded the standard, but we will have to wait for Consumer
Reports' next article to find out which ones.
At present, we recommend ASTM or CPSC helmets almost interchangeably. But as the years go by a consumer will feel more
secure with one that passes the current--CPSC--standard than one that passed the old one. It will be interesting to see
which helmet models disappear or have to be modified to meet the new standard. Do not take anyone's word for which
helmets meet the CPSC standard unless the helmet has a CPSC sticker inside certifying that it does! If you can deal with
the complexities of the Snell Foundation's various bicycle helmet standards
it may be
possible to ensure that you are buying an even more protective helmet, but we despair of ever explaining that to
consumers, and the most-used Snell standard (B-90S) has no pronounced advantages over the CPSC standard other than
Snell's independent testing.
The ASTM headgear subcommittee is in the process of upgrading some elements of its standard to make sure that in the
future any helmet passing ASTM F1447 will also pass the CPSC standard. As with all ASTM processes, this will take months
if not years, but the first subcommittee ballot has been circulated.
CPSC Publishes New Standard
Effective March 10 1999
(March 11, 1998)
Yesterday CPSC published their bicycle helmet standard in the Federal Register
. This is a welcome announcement for
consumers that nails down the effective date of the new standard: March 10, 1999, one year later. Manufacturers can begin
certifying to it immediately. We have more detail in our emailed Helmet Update newsletter
including a link to the full text of the standard. The standard will raise the minimum impact performance required of
helmets in the U.S. market to the level of the current ASTM standard and Snell B-90S. See our page
on standards for more details
Bell Going Private
Bell Sports Inc is apparently about to go private again after some years as a public company. A group of investors
including two top Bell execs will offer to purchase outstanding shares and take the world's largest-volume helmet company
private again. Bell's lack of growth recently has hurt its stock price, since the market puts a premium on growth.
Private investors may be satisfied with a steady return.
New Aero Designs in Olympics May Reach Helmets
At the Winter Olympics in Nagano, new racing suit designs have surfaced among Dutch skaters and others. Winter sports
outfitters are using some new aero tricks to reduce wind resistance for skiers and skaters. Some of the new suits have
already been banned for skiers as giving too much advantage. This could be where aero bike helmets are eventually headed.
Some of the technology is as old as the dimples on golf balls. It should be easy to produce bike helmets using the
designs. We like it because the surfaces are almost smooth, unlike the squared-off designs becoming popular in 1998.
Consumers can benefit--even though it won't make most of them any faster at all it might get them smoother helmets!
CPSC Approves New Standard!
Effective March, 1999, but can be used now
CPSC met today and approved their bicycle helmet standard. This is a welcome advance for consumers that will effectively
raise the minimum level of quality of all bicycle helmets in the U.S. market to be approximately equal to the current
ASTM standard and Snell B-90S. The standard will legally take effect and become a legal requirement for all helmets
produced for sale in the U.S. market after March, 1999, but manufacturers can begin certifying to it immediately. We have
all the details
and a copy of the standard
CPSC Standard Nears Final Rule
The staff of the Consumer Product Safety Commission briefed the three Commissioners on January 21st on the final draft of
the CPSC bicycle helmet standard. This standard will become U.S. law one year after publication in the Federal
. The Commission will take its vote on February 5th.
CPSC's main changes related to children's helmets, where they have retreated to a 300 g threshold and adult headform
weights for the lab tests. Bell had Jim Sundahl send a last-minute letter on the subject
which CPSC staffer Scott Heh promised to analyze for the Commissioners before the final vote. They are also permitting
either monorail or twin-wire test rigs. Another significant announcement was that CPSC can amend this standard under the
same streamlined procedures under which it is being adopted, welcome news indeed. Manufacturers can begin certifying to
the standard as soon as it is published in the Federal Register
in March. We would expect most helmets now in the
market to meet the new standard, since most of them are currently certified to the very similar ASTM standard. For more
on that see this email Update Newsletter with our analysis of the standard
. We also have a
full copy of the draft standard
up. We will update this brief when the Commission meets on
New Swedish Data on Fatalities?This report comes from Garry Jones, whose email address is in Sweden. Needless
to say, we are looking for the reference, since the data seem optimistic, to say the least!
Here is some data from Sweden.
I would like to see the source of it, and it did come in a consumer TV program which aired last Monday. I must point out
that they were basically saying that every cyclist should always wear helmets.
However, I did get a feeling that this medical expert knew what he was saying:
There were 67 bicycle deaths in Sweden in 1996. They had studied each of the deaths in great detail and arrived at an
amazing conclusion: EVERY ONE of those cyclists would "stood an excellent chance of survival" had they been wearing a
New Jersey Reports 60 Per Cent Reduction in Fatalities
The State of New Jersey has reported that bicycle-related fatalities for the under-14 age group covered by their bicycle
helmet law fell 60 per cent in the five years since they introduced the law. Fatalities for 1987-1991 totaled 41, while
those in the five years since the law went into effect totaled only 16. For the 14 and over group not covered by the law,
fatalities went from 75 to 71 over the same periods. We have a copy of the full New Jersey press
on the improvement.
Consumer Reports publishes their article!
CU has published a helmet article in the June issue of Consumer Reports
. We have a review of
up. They found some buckle problems, but the extent is not clear, and they did not down rate any helmets,
indicating that they do not consider the problem too serious. Various people are working on the buckle info, and we will
have more on that eventually.
NHTSA Buckle Up Message Includes Bicycle Helmets
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a press release on May 13 expanding its annual May
message encouraging safety belt use to include "buckling up" helmets before riding a bicycle. May is National Bike
British Columbia Coroner Publishes Report
The Office of the Chief Coroner in BC, Canada, has published a 37 page
report entitled "Deaths of Cyclists in British Columbia."
After reviewing the deaths, the
Coroner believes in safety education for cyclists and in the use of bicycle helmets. Beyond the analysis is a set of 12
recommendations and an appendix with capsule descriptions from the coroner's files of 56 deaths in BC between 1986 and
Consumer Reports Planning Helmet Article
The April issue of Consumer Reports
says we can expect an article from them soon on bicycle helmets. This is big
news for those of us who are starved for publicly-available lab test data on current helmet models, since there has been
no new data published since their previous helmet article in 1994. We hope that this year's article will stay current
longer than the last one did, since most of the models were replaced with new ones before that one was published. The old
article is not available on the web, but we can send you a paper copy of it if you need one. (We had to pay CU a fee to
do even that.) We anticipate a delay before we can provide reprints of the coming article, if at all, so be sure to pick
it up at a newsstand if you are not a subscriber.
BHSI Files FOIA Request for CPSC Data
The Consumer Product Safety Commission purchases bicycle helmets from retail outlets with taxpayer funding and tests them
in labs paid for by the taxpayer. Then they classify the results as "proprietary information" of the bicycle helmet
manufacturer and refuse to release them. BHSI has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with CPSC requesting
the data from their testing. If it is denied we will have to take the issue to court for a final ruling. We believe that
the public is entitled to have that data, and we want to post it here. We have a copy of our FOIA
up, and CPSC's reply.
NY Times: Seattle Calls for National Helmet Campaign
The New York Times published an article today reporting that Harborview Injury Prevention Center is calling for a
national campaign to promote bicycle helmets, based on the model of the successful Seattle campaign. They estimate that
the first phase would cost $80,000 per year. The article quotes Fred Rivara and Abe Bergman from Harborview. It also
quotes Jeffrey Sacks of CDC saying that money is the problem, and Mark Rosenberg of CDC, saying we don't know yet
everything we need to know to mount a successful national campaign, and the funding will be a problem. The
always-outspoken Dr. Bergman is quoted as saying "It's not the money but the lack of will." The initial Harborview call
for a national campaign was made some months ago. (You can find the article on the Times
website: they wanted $100
for permission to post it here for six months, and it's pretty stale news.)
Australians Study Facial Injuries
An Australian study based on research conducted in Brisbane has concluded that:
Facial injuries are potentially disfiguring a helmet re-design is indicated to cover a larger area of the head as well
as the chin. Vision must be maintained, and weight is a factor as well as strength. Children who fall off their
bicycles are damaging their faces and jaws. Although rarely life-threatening, the injuries can have long-term
consequences. The article calls for preventive strategies to reduce the number of crashes as well as revised helmet
designs to protect the face and head.
The study draft we saw is no longer available on the web, and we do not have the final version, but it was published by
The Medical Journal of Australia
as Bicycle Riding and Oral/maxillofacial Trauma in Young Children, by Caroline H.
C. Acton, James W. Nixon and Ronald C. Clark (MJA 1996; 165: 249)
Snell Establishes Education Center
The Snell Foundation has set up a separate non-profit to handle its
educational activities. The press release on the new entity says they hope to attract additional outside funding for
their program, mentioning manufacturers as one potential source.
Harborview Publishes in JAMA!
The December 25, 1996, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association has
two articles from the emergency room research study conducted in Seattle by Thompson, Rivara and Thompson on helmets and
injuries. These are landmarks certain to be cited for years to come, and will be followed by additional articles. You can
read the abstracts on JAMA's web page. (Registration required, painless.) We will have a detailed brief up real soon
The Wall Street Journal has an article about the Snell Foundation.
In general, they faithfully reported
Snell's views on nearly everything, including the Snell interpretation of why many manufacturers have fled to ASTM.
CPSC Revises Schedule for Bicycle Helmet Standard - December, 1996
Scott Heh of the Consumer Product Safety
Commission briefed ASTM members and observers at ASTM's meetings in New Orleans on CPSC's activities and timetable for
publishing a final bicycle helmet standard. Their main issues are:
- Children's standard - g level
- Curbstone anvil - How to specify its use in the impact schedule
- Test Rig: Monorail or Twin wire
Heh said CPSC is winding up a round robin test series with various labs to ensure that their test rig is correctly
specified. That has delayed their project schedule, and his best estimate at present is that they will have another draft
out somewhere around April or May of 1997. (That subsequently slipped to July, 1997) There may be a requirement for
another comment period (he will press for 60 days rather than 75 if that is needed) and that would require a third draft,
hopefully to be done before the end of 1997. That would take effect at the end of 1998. (The significance of the delay is
that until that date, helmets meeting only the ANSI Z90.4-1984 standard will continue to be legal in the U.S. market.)
CPSC is looking at the labeling issue raised by Blue Goulding and others on wording a "bicycle use only"
statement that says what the helmet is designed for rather than a "not for motor vehicle use" statement which
only rules out one unintended use. CPSC has finished its testing of the usefulness of reflectivity on bicycle helmets,
done at the same time as its testing of reflectors mounted on the bicycle. The tests involved instrumented cars and
drivers who vocalized their reactions as they drove around the NIST test grounds approaching helmeted cyclists whose
helmets and bicycles had various reflective surfaces. A human factors specialist rode in each car and recorded additional
detail about the drivers' reactions. The test data is being analyzed, and will figure into CPSC's final decision on a
possible reflectivity requirement for helmets.
ASTM F8.53 Subcommittee Makes Progress - December 11, 1996
At its December meeting in New Orleans the ASTM
Headgear subcommittee noted some changes and voted some others, resulting in its most productive meeting in years.
Notable changes included the appointment by ASTM of veteran staffer George Luciw (pronounced loo-chew) to head up the
subcommittee's support. George brought a wealth of experience and a wealth of organization to the subcommittee's work. In
another change, BHSI's Randy Swart was appointed by Chairman Dave Halstead as 2nd VP. (Dean Fisher of Bell is 1st VP for
Life.) This is less an honor than a sentence of additional work. The group established a tracking system for balloting
changes in its standards, untangled the status of previous balloted items and beefed up its Form and Style Committee by
the addition of a third member, John Sabelli of ETL/Inchcape labs. (The other two members are Dan Pomerening of Southwest
Labs and Randy Swart.) The meeting finished with nine action items to be worked on over the next six months. You can also
see notes from the "Shirtsleeves" technical meeting that preceded the Subcommittee meeting. George Luciw reported that
the long-anticipated harmonization of the ANSI Zl90.4 and ASTM F-1446/1447 standards has actually been finalized, and on
October 24th ANSI adopted the ASTM standard as ANSI-accredited and ANSI-approved. The next printing of the ASTM standards
will bear a line at the top noting that they are American National Standards. BHSI has been actively involved in this
process and is pleased that it has finally been formalized.
ASTM Has Inline Skating Helmet Standard - December, 1996
At the ASTM F8.53 Headgear subcommittee meeting in New
Orleans, ASTM announced that it has given final approval to the long-awaited Inline Skating helmet standard, designated
by the number F-1751-96 and known as the Specification for Helmets Used in Recreational Roller Skating. This standard
does not cover trick or freestyle skating, where frequent crashes require a multi-impact helmet. Its main significance is
that it is identical in all performance and coverage requirements to the ASTM bicycle helmet standard
(F-1446-95a/F1447-94) and any changes to the bicycle helmet standard flow through automatically to the skating standard.
Thus the question of whether or not bicycle helmets are adequate for inline skating has finally been answered by adopting
an identical standard. The new standard should be available in printed form from ASTM early in 1997. You can read more
background on this subject in a message from Les Earnest, another member of the F-8.53 Subcommittee. We have put up a
page on non-bicycle helmets
if you need more on other helmets.
Bell Agrees to Produce Oversized Helmet - November 12, 1996
We have been informed by Bell's staff that they have
decided to produce a helmet which will fit people with head sizes up to 8 and one quarter. The decision was to produce a
helmet from scratch, rather than just expand an existing model, so don't hold your breath, but it may be out before next
We congratulate Bell on the decision, made in the almost certain knowledge that the helmet will never make them any money
and is in fact a loser. This is a public-service undertaking, and one that we have been promoting for a long time without
finding a manufacturer who wanted to pony up. We are not always kind to Bell's helmet designs, but this one will be an
important addition to the market. Here is the Bicycle Retailer and Industry News coverage on this
, from their January 1, 1997 issue. And here is our own page for those with large
. Hopefully the Kinghead will put an end to messages like the one which follows in the next brief!
New Helmet Line May Fit Larger Heads - November 5, 1996
We just received this message:
Thank you very much for your response. You may recall, I was looking for a helmet for a head size of 25 1/2". I was able
to find a Giro XXL in the Phoenix area, but the shape was wrong - the helmet is round rather than long. However, GT just
came out with a new line, called the Stinger. The shape is long rather than round, and they run large. With minimal
modification, we should get that one to fit. I realize that it is not a good idea to modify the helmet, but the foam is
quite thick, and we figured it is much better than biking over rocky trails with no protection at all.
BC Grants Exemptions to Helmet Law - September 29
The western Canadian province of British Columbia has decided to
grant exemptions to its new mandatory helmet law for certain people with medical and religious problems. These include
those who must wear religious headgear, pedicab operators and their passengers, children under 12 who ride tricycles or
play vehicles, cyclists with head circumferences larger than 64 centimetres (size 8 hat or larger) and those whose
medical conditions make helmet use "unfeasible." The law covers all cyclists regardless of age. We have a copy of the
Harborview Study Released - September 10
Drs. Rivara and Thompson, who published landmark helmet research in
1989, have released a first summary of the results of a new study on the protective effect of helmets. They studied 3,390
injured cyclists and concluded that:
- Helmets reduced the risk of brain injury by 65 percent, and severe brain injury by 74 percent (85% if adjusted as
in the 1989 study).
- Helmets worked equally well for all age groups examined and there was no evidence that a child helmet standard is
- Helmets worked well in crashes involving motor vehicles.
- Helmets with hard shells, thin shells or no shell offer similar protection, but hard shell helmets may offer
greater protection against severe brain injury. There was no effect on neck injuries.
- Helmet damage was more often to the edge of the front portion of the helmet than any other site. Helmets did offer
some facial protection.
About 30% of the cyclists with severe brain injury were helmeted. The authors offer possible explanations, including poor
fit (which they found to increase the risk of head injury by a factor of two), impacts outside of the protected zone and
energy exceeding the design threshold of protection. About half of the helmets were damaged at the edge, indicating some
need for protecting a greater area of the head, and possibly explaining why a hard shell helmet may offer more
The study's authors recommend that all cyclists wear helmets, that the addition of facial protection be considered, that
additional coverage be provided, that fast cyclists consider protective clothing similar to that used by motorcyclists or
ski racers, that educational campaigns and laws be used to increase helmet use and that environmental changes such as
safer roads and separate bike lanes should be explored to reduce the frequency of crashes and the involvement of motor
While it is useful to confirm the results of the 1989 study, this research can provide additional results not yet covered
in this initial summary. Seniors, who may need less dense foam in their helmets, are lumped in the over 40 group for this
first writeup. While the summary indicates that there was no evidence based on severe brain injuries to support a
separate child standard, it does not establish whether or not current child helmets are optimal. The fact that there was
little helmet damage associated with some of the brain injuries may indicate that helmet foam is too stiff in addition to
the fit problems the study mentions. There were only 15 helmeted cyclists with severe brain injuries, too few to
determine with statistical significance if hard shells are really superior. The finding that neck injuries were not
affected by wearing a helmet, or by what type of helmet it was, should lay that question to rest. There is clearly more
to come from this important and well-done research project.
The Snell Foundation, who funded the research, has the full study up on their server
Canadian Standard: Lower g's for Children
The biggest news in standards this year is that CSA has adopted a new Canadian child helmet standard with much lower g
levels than the usual 300 g used in all current U.S. standards. The new Canadian standard requires that helmets keep g
levels recorded in the headform to no more than 200 g when helmet and headform are dropped from a height of 1.5 meters
onto a flat anvil, representing the most likely crash surface. At 1.0 meters on the cylindrical anvil the maximum reading
permitted is less, only 150 g. At the same time, the Canadian standard reduces the dropped mass for the smallest child
headform to 3.1 kg rather than the U.S. requirement of 5.0 kg. This has the effect of reducing the energy in the test
crash but requiring a softer landing for the head, which should result in less dense foam in Canadian child helmets. This
provoked a statement by the Snell Foundation that the change was too radical, and had not been justified by research data
demonstrating the need for change. (Snell itself has no child helmet standard.) The Canadians acknowledge that many
current child helmets will be too stiff to pass the new standard, but believe that child helmet foam is in fact much too
stiff for optimal protection.
British Columbia Helmet Law Covers All Ages
The Canadian west coast province of British Columbia has passed a
effective September 3rd requiring helmets for all cyclists on public roads. Parks and
bike paths are not covered, but may be added by individual municipalities. The law provides for a "rigorous" education
and awareness campaign. The fine for non-compliance is $25. Children will not be ticketed, but their parents can be. The
law specifies the same seven standards used by CPSC for its Interim Rule, unfortunately including ANSI Z90.4-1984 (much
too easy to meet). Jocelyn Pedder, of BC's Rona Kinetics, had recommended allowing any
bicycle helmet for the
first year so those already riding with helmets would not penalized, then after one year permitting only helmets meeting
the CSA standard to be sold and worn.
Bell Returning to Financial Health?
Bicycle Retailer and Industry News reports that Bell Sports, Inc has begun to improve its financial performance following
its spurt of acquisitions. Bell now owns Giro, SportRack, American Recreation, Blackburn, Rhode Gear, VistaLite and
CycleTech, plus some others. Consolidation of both its U.S. and Canadian operations permitted the company to show its
first profit in recent years, totaling $624,000 in the quarter ending March 30. We have links to Bell's current stock
price and financial reports on our website.
London Helmet Use Exceeds Reputation
This from Steve C, with a photo posted on his website: "A common sight in
London. Most cyclists are commuters and commuters come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Contrary to the stories I'd heard
prior to coming, helmets are very much the norm rather than the exception - about 2 for 1, about the same ratio I've seen
in the states."
Great Ideas: Oregon Produces Video for Police Officers
Oregon's public safety officers have been reluctant to
enforce the state's 1994 helmet law. To help them understand its importance, the Department of Human Resources has
produced a video with interviews with the Governor and his wife, the Superintendent of State Police, the President of the
State Sheriff's Association and the President of the Association of Chiefs of Police. The camera spends considerable time
with a head-injured child, and notes that post-law helmet use has increased dramatically but not enough. Injuries have
already been reduced from 95 in 1993 to 70 in 1994, when the trend line had predicted 120. But police and sheriffs can do
more. This well-done 13 minute video is too Oregon-specific to just be shown elsewhere, but it is an idea that might be
useful in other states. Produced by Claudia Black, who has moved on to another job, but you can contact her successor at
the Bicycle Helmet Program, Oregon Department of Human Resources, 800 N. Oregon St, #825, Portland, OR 97232, phone (503)
731-4399. We have one copy to lend.
Helmet Resource Center to Open in Fall - July, 1996
This note from Phil Graitcer of the World Health Organization's
Emory Injury Prevention Center, Atlanta GA: Emory in partnership with Egleston Children's Health Care System is
establishing The Helmet Resource Center, a program of the WHO Helmet Initiative. We will establish at Emory's Injury
Center a resource center for questions and information about helmets - promotion, standards, types, laws, etc. Won't be
limited to bicycle helmets. Plan to have a manned phone system, initially on a part time basis, with telephone
answering and fax back services. We'll open in the fall, after the Olympics.
Sound familiar? About time we had some competition! We'll be referring callers to them when the subject is non-bicycling
Study Suggests Laws Work
A new study just published in July in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent
reports (according to the Washington Post
--we haven't seen it yet) that a survey of parents indicated
large increases in helmet use after the state passed a child helmet law. Parents were surveyed a month before the law
went into effect in 1993 and over a five month period after. Those reporting that they owned a helmet for their kids went
up from 39% to 57%, while positive responses on the question of whether or not the helmet was being used increased from
33% to 52%. The authors concluded that awareness of the law was a key factor.
There are some red flags here. Where did they find a sample with 39% already owning helmets? Maybe they really measured
39% saying yes, whether they owned a helmet or not. And would you expect that percentage to rise after a negative
response indicated you were breaking the law? And would you expect awareness of the law would be a key factor in deciding
whether or not to say yes regardless of helmet ownership? And if these are the same parents, would they be more likely to
buy a helmet after having been alerted that they are being surveyed?
We continue to believe that the only valid helmet surveys are field counts.
Study Suggests Helmets are too Expensive in New Zealand
The abstract of a study published in the Australian
Journal of Public Health
last October indicates that the authors found that compulsory helmets were not as
cost-effective as other studies have indicated. We don't know what helmets cost in New Zealand, but this study was based
on the concept that the effective life of a helmet is about three years, and the authors say they have based their
conclusions on helmet effectiveness at least partly on anecdotal evidence.
UK Articles Debate Helmets: For and Against
The March issue of the UK's Child: care, health and
has articles on Children and Cycle Helmets: the Case For and the Case Against. The case against concludes
that helmet statistics may reflect other factors than just helmet effectiveness, since parents who buy helmets for their
kids may also supervise them better and make sure they are in a safer environment. (In UK terms that is summed up "Child
accident rates and the wearing of helmets both have a steep social class gradient.") The author also believes that cars
are the main risk to child cyclists, that children should be able to ride in safety, and that "A profound change in the
habits of adults is needed, rather than suits of armour for children." Some interesting ideas there.
An update from Montreal Quebec Canada
Date: Thursday, 11 Jul 96
from Sam Boskey
During May, an all party- commission of Montreal City Council held hearings on the extension of the City's bike path
network. While making its recommendations to Council following the hearings, the Commission recommended that the City of
Montreal take a pro-mandatory helmet position at hearings that the Quebec provincial government will be holding shortly.
(While various small municipalities in the Montreal area have their own by-laws, causing some inconvenience to those
cycling from one suburb to another, the province is examining having one overall law.)
On July 11, the City's Executive Committee deposited its response to the Commission's proposals, saying: NO. The City
would not take a pro-mandatory helmet position.
There is still a motion pending which might be voted on in September which would allow the full City Council to pronounce
itself on the issue, but since one party controls a substantial majority and is now imposing severe discipline on its
members, it is highly unlikely that the motion would be adopted.
Opinion in the Montreal area has been, as elsewhere, split. Many parent and health groups are in favor, while the
provincial federation Velo-Quebec and the Montreal based Le Monde a Bicyclette are against.
ANSI Committee to Choose Snell or ASTM for ISO Secretariat - July 9
Ed Becker of the Snell Foundation, the current
Administrator for the US participation in the International Standards Organization committee on headgear, has sent out a
ballot to all members of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group to ISO/TC94/SCI asking if they want to continue with
Snell/ANSI administration or shift to the ASTM F-53 headgear committee as the administrator.
At issue is the need to press ISO to develop a bicycle helmet standard which would bring the many current national
standards closer to convergence. At present they are going their separate ways, with many parameters either differing
significantly or actually conflicting with those adopted by other national standards bodies. Consumers will suffer if the
standards create barriers to trade and their only helmet choices must come from their own national suppliers.
The ballot was accompanied by letters of support from various sources, mainly manufacturers supporting ASTM and Channing
Ewing of the Snell Board supporting Snell. The winning side will be the U.S. Administrator for the TAG and will then
apply to ISO to head up the committee.
We returned our ballot supporting the ASTM solution. The Snell Foundation has a long and distinguished track record in
this activity, and Ed Becker is as competent a helmet standards developer as can be found, but ASTM has its priorities
more directly in line with making progress in ISO, and we think it is the better choice.
Inventor Selling Helmet Patents - July 9 (updated 3/99)
Inventor Offering Helmet Patents and/or Seeking
Assistance Terry Glatt has put up two helmet patents for sale, license, and/or production assistance. The patents are for
"illuminated safety helmets" (bicycle, in-line skating, etc.). Integrated LEDs and removable circuit/battery housing.
Very clean and light weight design." Glatt says, "I am interested in working with a company or individual with expertise
in bringing a helmet to market. The patents are issued and a prototype is available -- I need assistance developing a
certifiable, production design." The inventor is Terry Glatt, MSEE, MBA, President, TecKnowledgy, inc. (954) 783-2290
Fax: (954) 783-2289 email:Terry@TecKnowledgy.com
Austin Dissidents Organize Helmet Law Protest
Opponents of the Austin, Texas, all-ages helmet law organized a protest on July 11th against the new city ordinance. They
have continued to protest since, and the City has considered minor modifications to the law to placate them. Politicians
in most other states and cities have limited their helmet laws to children to avoid antagonizing adults. In September
Austin agreed to permit medically-necessary exceptions to the law with a physician's statement approved by the city's
Germany's Bike Magazine Launches Helmet Promotion
Germany's top bike magazine has launched a six-issue helmet
promotion campaign, complete with their own magazine coverage, TV spots and more hoop-la. Sponsors for the campaign
include Bell, Giro (should that be BellGiro or Bell/Giro or BellboughtGiro?) Louis Garneau and Sachs. The campaign opened
with the May issue and is limited to Germany. This is an interesting concept, and the first time we have seen a bike
magazine care enough to take on an advocacy campaign in this way for any issue. Hats off to Bike
"Toy" Helmets Appear on U.S. Market
A resident of West Virginia informed us that the Value City Department Store in
their area was selling "toy" helmets which had no standards sticker and no energy management foam. The helmets did have a
sticker warning that the helmet was a toy helmet and not intended for skateboarding, bicycling, etc. But the helmets were
on the shelf with the store's bicycle helmets despite the label, and were selling for $2. When this resident approached
the manager about the helmets he was told that they would be pulled and sent back. Instead they were moved to the store's
closeout table and discounted to 85 cents.
Can this helmet be sold with bicycle accessories in the U.S. market? Does a sticker of this nature protect the
manufacturer against the requirements of the CPSC Interim Rule on helmets? We have asked CPSC's
Compliance division to look into this helmet
, and the West Virginian sent us samples which we passed on to CPSC.
Their staff says the matter is "in compliance proceedings" and they can not discuss it with us at present.
Study Recommends 200 g Fail Point
A recent study by an Australian-German team has concluded that current standards
are setting their injury threshold too high. The study was done by McIntosh, et al, and is titled "An Evaluation of Pedal
Cycle Helmet Performance Requirements." It concludes that current 300 g standards (all U.S. standards) and the 400 g
Australian standard are tolerating far too much impact energy to the wearer's head. Injuries were found to occur at much
lower levels, averaging only 180 g, as opposed to the old data which indicated that up to 400 g did not cause injury. And
testing of current helmets showed the good ones to all be easily capable of meeting a much lower g standard. The team
recommends lowering the permissible g level in lab testing to 200 g. You can order the
paper from SAE
for $10 by its number, 952713.
Pediatric News At Your Desktop features CPSC Study
An Internet service which provides "a has an article in their
current edition abstracting Greg Rodgers' study for CPSC on head injuries. They express no reservations about sampling
International Conference in Australia: Helmet Highlights
The Third International Conference on Injury Prevention
in Melbourne from February 18 through 24 features at least one helmet session dealing with the World Health
Organization's Helmet Initiative and chaired of course by Dr. Phillip Graitcer. Here is a partial list of helmet papers
to be presented at the session.
3:00 - 3:15pm - MOTORCYCLE INJURIES OF STUDENTS IN TAIWAN
3:15 - 3:30pm - INCREASING BICYCLE HELMET EFFECTIVENESS: WHAT CHANGES ARE NEEDED?
3:30 - 3:45pm - THE EFFECT OF HELMET USE ON THE SEVERITY OF HEAD AND CERVICAL SPINE INJURIES IN VICTIMS OF MOTORCYCLE AND
MOPED ACCIDENTS. A PROSPECTIVE ANALYSIS.
4:00 - 4:15pm - TRENDS IN CYCLE INJURY IN NEW ZEALAND UNDER VOLUNTARY HELMET USE
4:15 - 4:30pm - MULTILEVEL APPROACH TO PASSING AND IMPLEMENTING BICYCLE HELMET LEGISLATION: THE NEW YORK STATE
4:30 - 4:45pm - THE IMPACT OF TWO RELATED PREVENTION STRATEGIES ON HEAD INJURY REDUCTION AMONG NON-FATALLY INJURED
5:15 - 5:30pm - CORRELATION BETWEEN BICYCLE HELMET DAMAGE AND HEAD INJURIES
The 3:15 paper and that last paper are the first readouts from the long-awaited Harborview study of child helmets,
sure to be a landmark in this field.
You also don't want to miss the session on "Prevention of Injuries Associated with Dairy Cows," not to mention Session 7
- KIDS: BE SAFE LIKE TROO THE TRAUMAROO! Look for a lot of new stuff to begin circulating after the conference. Hopefully
someone will send some of it here!
Consumer Product Safety Commission
Publishes Second Draft of Bike Helmet Standard
CPSC has published for comment the second draft of its bicycle helmet
standard. The deadline for comments is February 20. We have some suggestions for comments
course, in addition to the full text of the standard
and CPSC's Supplementary Material
. We also have a brief page up explaining two of the
New Australian Study Available
We have a new study from Australia
which will be an
invaluable resource for fighting the Helmet Wars on the Internet. This is the most valuable reference currently available
for anyone starting research on bicycle helmets. Seasoned bio-medical researcher Dr. Michael Henderson has digested the
available literature and laid out chapters on why cyclists need helmets, crash and injury characteristics, the basic
biomechanics of head injury, and effectiveness of helmets, mandatory laws and more. He fits the most important findings
of hundreds of diverse studies into a framework, adding judgment and perspective along the way. Facts abound, and at
least half of the sentences contain statistics. Uses Australian experience as a starting point, but this is an
international study. Here are the answers for the Internet Helmet Wars. This study can save you hours of plowing through
Bell Grows, Goes Discount, Buys Everybody in Sight, Loses Money!
Bell is no longer using Snell certification, and
is instead promoting the ASTM standard, with an eight million dollar advertising campaign. Bell is now selling Bell brand
helmets in discount stores for the first time, and is bringing out a more expensive line for sale exclusively in bike
shops called Bell Pro. We have an article on those actions
from Bicycle Retailer and
. In late June, Bell Sports Incorporated completed its merger with American Recreation. The new company
says it has 70% of the world helmet market. You can read the new company's press release
in December Bell announced the acquisition of Giro Sports Design, another major producer of high-end helmets. We have an
article from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News
on that development, including a
quote from a competitive manufacturer who hopes the merger will reduce competition and raise helmet prices. In the same
issue of BRIN there is an article on Bell's expected losses
this year. And in the
March 1, 1996 issue is an article on the actual loss
in the second quarter. For
another, perhaps unique, view of the Bell/Giro merger, see the Bike Pro page.
ANSI Renewing Expired Standard
The ANSI Z90.4 bicycle helmet standard committee has met twice since April,
deciding in its June meeting
to adopt the ASTM bicycle helmet standard in order to
harmonize the two standards. This action should be completed real soon now.
BASF Pushing Expanded PolyPropylene for Helmets
We heard recently from BASF's marketing people who are looking for
bicycle helmet manufacturers interested in their EPP resin and a new process for making helmets. BASF sent us a sample
helmet made with the new process, which features pre-heating of the helmet mold to melt the first layer of bead into a
tough EPP skin. Then the rest of the bead is hit with steam under pressure and *bingo* you have a fully-formed helmet,
thin shell already on it. The helmet looks good. The EPP material is resilient, and helmets made from it can be certified
under multiple-impact standards. Unfortunately, BASF said it costs about 50 cents more per helmet than the standard EPS,
which makes it a tough sell in the current market where margins are thin. One manufacturer, Aria Sonics, has been making
EPP helmets for years and claiming advantages for them, but the company encountered difficulties in marketing this new
material, and is now defunct. They had estimated the extra cost of EPP over EPS to be on the order of $1.50 or $2 per
helmet rather than BASF's 50 cents, but believed that this material's advantages would eventually be recognized. We
suggested to BASF that if they can make the outer skin reflective or mold in the in graphics in this new process they
will have something.
CPSC Announces Amnesty Program for Manufacturers
The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced on August 17 a
new program to permit manufacturers to 'fess up about flawed products they have not reported in the past without a
penalty. There may be some helmet manufacturers who will take advantage of the amnesty, which will be available to them
for six months. We have a copy of the CPSC press release
Ziff-Davis' David Haskin has ranked us as one of the top
cycling sites on the Internet!
Safe Kids has a new video!
The Safe Kids National Campaign has produced a new video targeted at kids up to age
14. It successfully avoids preaching by adults, letting a group of normal kids tell the story without a single older
authority figure in the video, letting the audience reach its own conclusions rather than dealing out heavy doses of
"Wear a helmet." The title is Jello in a Jar, and there is a Jello drop to illustrate what can happen to a brain. There
is a moving interview with a boy who has been head-injured without a helmet, who sits on the edge of a picnic table
describing how his life fell apart and concludes that "it sucks." The kids are mostly very natural, teasing each other
and joking around. The music sounds offensive to adult ears, so it must be right. The cutting and editing is reminiscent
of MTV. This is the best attempt we have seen to make a kids video the way kids want it, masterminded by Safe Kids
staffer Sarah Everhart, who worked carefully with teen focus groups to get it right. The video is available now from Safe
Kids' order department (Ida Allen) at (800) 289-0117 or (502) 452-8516. Ask for the Safe Kids Cycle Smart video titled
Jello in a Jar, Item # 0087. It costs $23.
An email from: Charles Pekow - cpekow@CapAccess.org
Teaching elementary school children about the
importance of bicycle helmets increases their use dramatically. Or so says a study recently published by the American
Public Health Assn. Researchers followed a four-year helmet promotion campaign in Quebec. They found that before the
study, almost no children used helmets, whereas one-third did afterward. That leaves quite a bit of room for improvement
but it also no doubt saved some young lives.
One problem: the education campaign worked much more effectively in wealthier communities than in poor ones. Evidently,
lower-class children couldn't afford helmets, even though the campaign included coupons to lower helmet price.
The project included posters, pamphlets, games, awards for helmet use, etc. For more info, see the January issue of the American Journal of Public Health.