Cyclists who ride without helmets are more likely to take risks while riding, such as disobeying traffic controls or cycling while drunk, a new study of road accident data has found.
The study, conducted by academics at the University of NSW and published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, examined NSW hospital and police records on 6745 cyclists involved in a motor vehicle collision between 2001 and 2009.
It found that wearing a helmet reduced the risk of head injury by up to 74 per cent.
Although 75.4 per cent of the riders in the data set studied wore helmets, only about half of those less than 19 years old wore helmets, the study found.
Non-helmeted cyclists were almost three times as likely to have disobeyed traffic controls as helmeted riders, and more than four times as likely to have been above the blood alcohol limit, said the study’s co-author, Dr Jake Olivier from the University of New South Wales School of Mathematics and Statistics.
“Those who wore helmets were more likely to be in high speed areas. If a person didn’t wear a helmet they were more likely to be in low speed areas. The overall effect was that helmet wearing was still beneficial,” he said.
The study showed wearing a helmet greatly reduced the risk of injury while riding.
“There have been calls from some people to get rid of helmet laws. What we have found disturbing is it’s young kids in the accidents not wearing helmets, kids who have their whole lives ahead of them and for whom having a serious brain injury will change their lives,” he said.
“People who don’t like helmets say it won’t help you with serious injury but this evidence points to the opposite.”