Changes in Participation, Demographics and Hazard Associated with Mandatory Bicycle Helmets in New South Wales, Australia

New South Wales (NSW) Australia introduced mandatory helmets for bicyclists over 16 years of age in January 1991 and for bicyclists 16 and under in July 1991. Significant reductions in the number of fatalities and serious injuries to bicyclists were recorded. Differences of opinion about the causes of these reductions tend to focus on three areas. First, whether a reduction in participation coincided with the introduction of the law, thus reducing exposure (Austroads, 2000b, Rissel, 2012). Second, were demographic changes among bicycle riders (Robinson, 1996) reflected in fatality rates? Finally, to what extent road safety measures that were introduced at the same time (Road Safety Strategy Branch, 1999–2006) were responsible for the reductions in fatalities. Four factors that reduced the hazard of fatality for bicyclists at about the time of the introduction of mandatory helmet laws are apparent. These factors explain the gradual, rather than abrupt, decline in cycling fatalities, the selective reduction in fatalities among teenage riders and the lack of subsequent increase despite rising population. That bicycle helmets have prevented some fatalities and reduced some injuries is not disputed. However, the factors mentioned above are able to explain most or all of the observed reductions in fatalities and provide a better explanation of the pattern of those reductions than mandatory helmet legislation.


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  • Accession Number: 01673203
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jun 14 2018 3:53PM