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
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 protection.
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 vehicles.
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
The Snell Foundation, who funded the research, has the
full study up on their server.
Helmet Resource Center to Open
This July note from Phil Graitcer of the World Health Organization's Helmet
Emory Injury Prevention Center, Atlanta GA: Emory in partnership with Egleston
Children's Health Care System is establishing 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 helmets.
Great Ideas: Oregon Video for Police Officers
Oregon's police have been reluctant to enforce the state's 1994 helmet law. To
help them understand its importance, a video was created as a joint venture between
the Health Division's Bicycle Helmet Coordinator, the Oregon Department of Transportation
and the Oregon Bicycle Helmet Coalition. Claudia Black, who was then Helmet Coordinator, served as
producer, and generally made the project happen. The video includes 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 time with a head-injured child, and notes that post-law
helmet use increased dramatically but not enough. Injuries have been
reduced from 95 in 1993 to 70 in 1994, when the trendline 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. It is available from the Oregon Health Division,
and is also available to borrow from the Transportation Safety Section, 555 13th St. NE,
Salem OR 97310 Phone (503)986-4190.We got our copy from the Bicycle Helmet Program, Oregon
Department of Human Resources, 800 N. Oregon St, #825, Portland, OR 97232, (503) 731-
4399. We have that one copy to lend. [This article edited for the web after paper copies were
"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.
CPSC Final Standard May be Ready Soon
The Consumer Product Safety Commission is nearing the end of the process
it must follow to publish the national bicycle helmet standard. The main
elements still to be determined are the permissible g level for child helmets
(250 g rather than the usual 300 g in the draft standard provoked some
protests), the required amount of head coverage and whether or not to
require reflective tape. The publication of the Harborview study was
supposed to bear heavily on the g level question, and CPSC is undertaking a
study of nighttime bicyclist conspicuity during which the reflectivity question
should be answered. For the time being we understand they are considering
in draft the language developed by BHSI, 3M and Reflexite for a reflectivity
requirement in the ASTM standard. Meantime, under their Interim Rule
CPSC has required that for any helmet to be sold in the U.S. the
manufacturer must meet one of seven voluntary standards.
CPSC Amnesty for Manufacturers Not Used
Last year we noted that the Consumer Product Safety Commission had
announced a program to permit manufacturers to reveal any flawed products they had not reported in the past, without paying any of the usual
penalties. The amnesty was available for six months, but CPSC has informed
us that no helmet manufacturers took advantage of it.
ANSI Chooses ASTM for ISO Secretariat
The Snell Foundation, the current Administrator for the US participation in
the International Standards Organization committee on headgear, sent out a
ballot to all members of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group to ISO/TC94/SCI
asking if they wanted to continue with Snell/ANSI administration or shift to
the ASTM F-8.53 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
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 winner 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. A large majority of committee members agreed. The
next step is up to ANSI's staff.
ASTM Standard Revisions Stalled
ASTM's F-8 Committee has been working on a number of changes to its
bicycle helmet standards, but has been largely unable to make progress due
to a combination of editorial problems and philosophical differences between
committee members. If this wording seems familiar, it is probably because it
is exactly what we said last year. We will report when ASTM actually
achieves final approval of changes or new standards. At present there are a
number of items in the works, including a rolloff standard, an inline skating
standard, a downhill bicycle racing standard, a reflective surface
requirement for bicycle helmets, a roller hockey standard and a number of
ANSI Slow to Adopt ASTM Standard
As we reported last year, the ANSI Z-90.4 bicycle helmet standard passed its
10th birthday on December 31, 1994 and was "administratively withdrawn"
by ANSI. The Z-90 committee met twice and in May of 1995 approved the
adoption of the ASTM F-1446/F-1447 standard as the ANSI standard,
updating the entire ANSI standard in one action. Harmonizing the two
standards could eliminate a source of confusion for consumers and reduce the
amount of repetitive testing needed. Unfortunately the follow-up on the
committee vote has been very slow, and ANSI does not yet have the update in
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.
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 (just lowered in 1996 to
300 g) 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 to 200 g.
Study Suggests Laws Work - Maybe
A new study published in July in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent
Medicine reports (according to the Washington Post--we haven't seen it yet)
that a survey of Georgia 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 children 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 before the law was passed? Maybe they really
measured 39% saying yes, whether they owned a helmet or not. And would
you expect that percentage to rise after a law is passed and a negative
response indicates you are 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?
We continue to believe that the only valid helmet surveys are field counts.
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 health department.
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.
British Columbia Helmet Law Covers All Ages
The Canadian west coast province of British Columbia has passed a helmet
law 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, which
is outdated and much too easy to meet.
We are enclosing with this issue our current list of helmet laws.
UK Articles Debate Helmets: For and Against
The March issue of the UK's Child: care, health and development 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.
German Magazine Launches Helmet Promotion
The German magazine Bike 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, Louis Garneau and
Sachs. The campaign opened with the May issue and is limited to Germany.
We are alive and well. You will find this newsletter, our latest annotated
bibliography, our Toolkit for Helmet
our helmet standards comparison,
statistics and a lot of other helmet stuff on our website at http://www.bhsi.org. We still have our 24-hour interactive Fax on
Demand service at our regular voice and fax phone number, (703) 486-0100.
Faxes available include the most-accessed documents on our website.
Our next newsletter will include an update to our Annotated Bibliography, a
report on helmets for the 1997 season, and perhaps even a report on the final
CPSC national bicycle helmet standard.
The Helmet Update
Copyright the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. All rights reserved.
Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute
4611 Seventh Street South
Arlington, VA 22204
(703) 486-0100 (voice or Fax on Demand)
Internet email: email@example.com
Web Server: http://www.bhsi.org