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The Pros and Cons of Mandatory Bike Helmet Laws

Written by Jared Staver

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Jared Staver is a Personal Injury Lawyer based in Chicago, Illinois and has been practicing law for over 20 years.

Jared Staver

CATEGORY: Auto Accidents, Personal Injury


Bicycle riding is a low risk, cost effective, heart and environmentally friendly form of exercise, recreation, and transportation. Locations across the country are implementing laws and engineering cities to promote cycling and ensure cyclist safety. Some argue that as we push a pro-bicycle agenda we should also make bike helmets mandatory in order to minimize risk and save lives. Others reject the idea of statutorily enforced bike helmets, and only a few places across the country have local mandatory helmet ordinances.

Proponents argue that helmets save lives. Many statistics tend to support this conclusion. Most cyclist fatalities are due at least in part to serious head injuries. Helmets may reduce the risk of suffering a serious head injury by up to 85%. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that only 17% of “fatally injured bicyclists were wearing helmets” at the time of their injury.

Finally, twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have mandatory helmet laws that are applicable to children. Taken together, this information tells us that head injuries account for a majority of cycling deaths, helmets drastically reduce the risk of head injury, and many legislative bodies believe in the value of helmet use and that helmets are an important part of safety for young riders. Most people who die in cycling accidents are over the age of twenty.

Would Adult Riders Benefit from Mandatory Helmet Laws as Well?

Many argue against mandatory helmet laws for adults, and as yet, very few places have or enforce them. Detractors believe these laws frame bicycling as hazardous and discourage people from bike riding. They believe that this important cardiovascular activity should be as accessible as possible, and the risk of a sedentary lifestyle far outweighs the risk of not wearing a bike helmet. Fewer riders also means fewer chances for city drivers to learn to safely share the road. Supporting these arguments are a handful of Australian researchers who believe the country’s mandatory bike helmet laws, which have been in effect since 1991, should be repealed to “improve health rates” and “increase motorist’s awareness of bike riders.” Detractors also argue that mandatory helmet laws obscure the real danger to cyclists: motor vehicles.

Your Chicago Bike Commute

Commuting by bike is great for your heart and for the environment. Chicago is doing its part to promote this healthy habit and to ensure the safety of cyclists, and mandatory bike helmets may be part of the future of this effort. Whether or not you choose to wear a helmet, your safety is never guaranteed. Make sure you are always aware of your surroundings, that you always pay attention, and that you never take for granted that cars will yield or obey traffic signals and regulations. If you are injured by a negligent driver in a Chicago biking accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney from Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. at (312) 236-2900.

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(312) 236-2900
(312) 236-2900
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