Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

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Why Not Wear A Bike Helmet?

Summary: Here are the kids' own reasons why they don't wear helmets.

This is an old survey. It was prepared by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Automobile Association in 1995. Some of the data has changed, including estimates of helmet effectiveness. Note that the kids were complaining about helmets made prior to that year, not necessarily today's models.

Kids Speak Out on Bike Helmets

Question: What could persuade more kids to wear bicycle helmets

Answer: Improve the way bicycle helmets look or fit.

That was the opinion of more than two-thirds of 282 children, ages 8 to 13, as reported by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the American Automobile Association (AAA). The children took part in a project to find ways to encourage more kids to wear bicycle helmets.

Each year, about 400,000 children under the age of 15 are treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries. An additional 300 children are killed. Bicyclists ages 5 through 14 have among the highest injury rates of all riders. About one-third of the injuries and two-thirds of the deaths are head-related.

Bike helmets can reduce the risk of brain injury or death by up to 85 percent [more recent estimates put this number at 66 to 88% reduction in the risk of head, brain and severe brain injury for all ages of bicyclists.]. Yet, only about 15 percent of all children nationally wear a helmet when they ride a bike.

To see if children had ideas about how to encourage More kids to wear bike-e helmets, AAA developed and conducted self-administered questionnaires for- schoolchildren and distributed these to selected AAA clubs in Pennsylvania, Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio, New Mexico, New York, Nebraska, and Washington. The AAA clubs administered the questionnaires to local schoolchildren.

AAA Provided CPSC access to the questionnaire responses. CPSC staff reviewed the information and compiled this report.

Improve the Look

More than half the children suggested redesigning the look of the bike helmet as a way to increase helmet usage. In response to the question: "What one thing would you change on bike helmets to get more kids to wear them?", the answers fell into the following categories: Children disliked both the way bicycle helmets looked and how they, themselves, appeared while wearing one, There were many comments like: Many wanted to see helmets with "cooler' colors. Many also wanted to see more interesting and varied designs on the helmets. Other specific comments included:

Improve the Fit

What children most disliked about bike helmets, however, was the fit. In response to the question; "What do you dislike about bike helmets?", the answers broke down into the following categories: Many complained that bike helmets felt uncomfortable on the head. Many disliked the chin strap. Others had problems with the inside of the helmet. Other typical comments included: When asked specifically what they would change on bike helmets to persuade more kids to wear one, many children suggested a softer and more comfortable strap. A frequent comment: Other suggestions for improving the fit included:

Improve the Marketing

A number of children had other ideas on how to encourage kids to wear bike helmets. Many suggested using the mass media and/or role models. Typical comments included: Others felt it was important to make sure kids understood the consequences of riding a bike without a helmet, This could be done in a number of ways, including: Still others had specific suggestions or, how retailers or local communities could Encourage children to wear bike helmets. These included: Finally, a number of children stated flatly that there was only one real way to get more kids to wear bike helmets. Their response: "Make it the law."

Wearing a Bike Helmet

Many children indicated that they understood the importance of wearing a bike helmet. When asked what would happen if they had a bike crash and were not wearing a helmet, a comment that typified many was: "You could be paralyzed, killed, or you could suffer brain damage."

This knowledge may have prompted those surveyed here to wear bike helmets at rates higher than the national average. When asked how often they wore a bike helmet, the children responded: In a national survey of bicycle riders (children and adults) conducted for CPSC in 1992 (Rodgers, 1994), 17.6% of the respondents indicated they wore helmets all or most of the time. (This is in contrast to a smaller survey of fourth and fifth graders in Eau Claire, Wisconsin (1992) where 64% of the students who owned bike helmets reported wearing a helmet every time or almost every time they rode a bike.)

Still, more than half of the children surveyed here did not wear bike helmets most of the time. This leaves many children vulnerable to head injuries.


Increasing the number of children who wear bike helmets could greatly reduce injuries and deaths from bicycle-related accidents, Parental supervision and Community laws requiring bike helmets are some traditional ways to promote bike helmet use. But, according to the children in this survey, improving the fit and look of bicycle helmets could also increase helmet usage. As children become more Independent, around the fourth or fifth grade, they are more likely to put or keep on bike helmets if the helmets are comfortable- As these children become more peer-oriented, they also are more sensitive to wearing a helmet that looks "cool.' As many children noted here, too, encouraging role models -- such as sports or movie personalities -- to wear these helmets could only enhance the appeal of bike helmets.

By acting on the sentiments of children like those surveyed here, bike helmet manufacturers, retailers, and advertisers may have significant marketing opportunities. While some helmet variety -- in terms of colors and fit -- already exists, there is clearly a universe of children (and their parents) who would welcome more innovations in the design and promotion of bike helmets.


Eau Claire Police Department, WI (1992), 'Bike Helmets. A Study of Their Use by Children of the Eau Claire Area.' Eau Claire Police Department. Rodgers, Gregory B., et. al. (1994). "Bicycle Use and Hazard Patterns in the United States.' U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, DC.

Note:This survey was accompanied by a pamphlet and a joint CPSC-AAA press release. We don't find them online any more.