A new study by researchers at the University of Alberta’s school of public health concludes that the introduction of bicycle helmet legislation in Alberta has led to a decrease in head injuries across various age groups. The study, published in the October 2013 issue of the Journal of Accident Analysis and Prevention, examined Alberta Health data on hospitalizations and emergency department visits before and after legislation was introduced in 2002 making helmet use mandatory for those under 18.
The researchers found that, for child cyclists, the rate of hospitalizations and emergency department visits for head injuries decreased by nine percent and 30 percent respectively. For adolescents and adults, the decrease in hospitalizations for head injuries was 36 percent and 24 percent respectively.
The findings will likely prove controversial as they are contrary to the results of other research – and to the views of helmet legislation critics who suggest enforcing helmet use doesn’t reduce head injuries and discourages people from cycling. Such contentions are unproven, says Donald Voaklander, one of the study authors and director of the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research. This latest research, he says, presents definitive evidence that helmets remain an important injury prevention strategy.