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Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

The Helmet Update by Email

Volume 23, #4 - August 3, 2005

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Summary: NHTSA has published a large helmet law study




NHTSA Publishes Helmet Law Study

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has just put up on its Web site a new 219 page study of bicycle helmet laws.

The study was done by independent researcher Carol Stroebel. She examined six communities where helmet laws of various kinds had been passed, including one where it was subsequently repealed. The study analyzes the findings in twenty pithy pages titled Analysis, providing acres of detail if you need it. Some of the themes that emerge:

  • The major stakeholders in enacting a law are usually emergency medicine professionals, pediatricians, and a coalition focused on children's safety, injury prevention, or bicycling and bicycle safety.

  • The bicycling community has been divided at times on this issue; and law enforcement, though usually not deeply involved, may have a "make-or-break" role;

  • Typically, few citations are issued under these laws and they are not a priority for enforcement agencies;

  • Even though the laws may be little enforced, they are seen as valuable leverage (especially for parents) for increasing bicycle helmet use;

  • The evolving role of bicycling and the bicycling community in the changing transportation mix will influence the strategies, issues and constituents involved in future bicycle safety efforts.


To increase the effectiveness of the laws the study suggests:

  • Law enforcement must make the law a priority; if the law is not enforced, it loses its effectiveness.

  • On-going efforts in education and awareness are needed, similar to those supporting safety belt laws.

  • Proponents should educate the news media about the need for the law.

  • The public needs to be better educated on the physics of injury.

  • Those implementing the law must "continuously deliver the message" about bicycle helmet use and the law.


On the NHTSA site you can find the whole study or start with Section V - Analysis for a condensation.

There is also an 8 megabyte .pdf file.

or NHTSA will send it to you on a CD if you fax a request to: 301-386-2194

We are including it now on our Toolkit CD.




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