Cycling Helmets and Why You Should Wear One

Stephen M. Smith
Last Updated:
December 2, 2019
Four cycling helmets on a shelf that cyclists should wear to avoid injury.

Studies link cycling helmets to increased head protection for riders. Our Hampton cycling accident lawyers have seen helmets save lives on occasions or lessen the severity of a brain injury.

There are plenty of reasons why you should wear a cycling helmet. However, Virginia and other states do not require adult riders to wear cycling helmets in the same way as motorcyclists must wear helmets.

Although 21 states and the District of Columbia require minors to wear helmets when riding a bike, no state laws require the universal wearing of cycling helmets.

This is unfortunate. Cyclists are among the most vulnerable of road users. The U.S. Department of Transportation reveals about 45,000 bicyclists are injured in traffic with about 800 deaths every year. Wearing a helmet will protect you on the road.

In Virginia, the state allows localities to set up bicycle helmet ordinances. At last 29 Virginia communities have opted to do so. All bike riders and passengers under 15 are required to wear a bicycle helmet under local ordinances.

What Are Your Chances of Avoiding Injury if You Wear a Cycling Helmet?

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, only 17 percent of cyclists who are killed are wearing helmets. This suggests many bicyclists die from head injuries and a helmet alleviates the seriousness of these injuries. The department says people who wear helmets reduce their chances of sustaining a head injury in a cycling accident by about 50 percent. They reduce their chances of sustaining a face and neck injury by 33 percent.

A recent study of 64,000 cyclists by Australian researchers found wearing a helmet reduces the risk of serious head injury by about 70%, the Guardian reported. The study stated:

“Helmet use is associated with odds reductions of 51% for head injury, 69% for serious head injury, 33% for face injury and 65% for fatal head injury. Injuries to the neck were rare and not associated with helmet use.”

How Many Cyclists Are Killed and Injured in Virginia?

In 2018, 13 cyclists lost their lives in Virginia. The number was the same as in 2017. The Virginia Department of Transportation’s Crash Facts report revealed 593 riders were seriously injured in 2018. Of these, 127 sustained serious injuries.

VDOT does not provide figures on how many of the riders were wearing helmets.

How Does a Bicycle Helmet Protect Your Head?

A helmet protects your brain when you fall or are involved in an accident. Most helmets have plastic shells on the outside and foam inside. The helmets also have chin straps. Cycling helmets are considerably lighter than motorcycle helmets. However, they are designed to absorb the force, protecting your head and your brain. Helmets are particularly important in protecting children whose brains are still developing.

The polystyrene foam in a cycling helmet crushes when you hit the road. By taking the impact, this helps protect the cyclist’s brain. The shell allows the helmet to skid along the pavement so as your neck does not jerk around.  The shell also keeps the foam in one piece. If the strap is fitted incorrectly, your helmet can slip to the side or the back.

Retailers like REI can help you decide what helmet to buy. By law, all helmets sold in the United States must conform with standards set by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). Some helmets are also endorsed by other organizations, like the nonprofit Snell Foundation.

Contact a Virginia Cycling Accident Lawyer

An experienced Virginia cycling lawyer can help you if you have been hurt on a bike through no fault of your own. Every year, bicyclists are injured by car and truck drivers who fail to give them space or fail to yield the right of way. Talk to the Smith Law Center about cycling injuries at (757) 244-7000 and read about our personal injury results.

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