08222017Headline:

Charlottesville, Virginia

HomeVirginiaCharlottesville

Email Greg Webb Greg Webb on LinkedIn Greg Webb on Facebook
Greg Webb
Greg Webb
Attorney • (800) 451-1288

Let’s Talk About Helmets—Kids on Bikes, Young Adults on Motorcycles!

4 comments

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recalled 31,100 bicycle helmets in the U.S. and 2,500 bike helmets from Canada’s marketplace, which were manufactured in Taiwan and imported by Bell Sports, a company with a relatively large percentage of the market share in helmet sales. The CPSC noted the reason for the recall is that the buckles on the chin straps may detach and the helmets can fall off suddenly. There has been a report that the buckles on a helmet did detach during an accident, causing the helmet to fall off and a rider to receive injuries requiring stitches.

The Bell Exodus helmets are full-face helmets with a plastic buckle on the chinstrap. The color(s), model and part numbers of the recalled helmets are listed below. The helmets have an angled visor and were sold in youth size. The model and part numbers are located on a removable sticker on the side of the helmet. The helmets were sold at Walmart stores nationwide and on Amazon.com between August 2009 and March 2011 for from $50-60.

Bell Exodus Helmets

Color

Part/Model Number

Orange/Grey/Black

1003825/035011898025

Blue/Grey/Gold/White/Black

1006714/035011917719

In spite of the fact that some helmets have problems, there are reasons we need to make sure kids have and wear protective bike helmets when they ride bikes. May 2011 was Bike Safety Month, and the SafeKids May newsletter pointed out that bikes are “associated with more childhood injuries than any other consumer product except automobiles.” “Child bicycling deaths increase 45% above the month average in the summer. With 27.7 million children riding bikes, …too many of those kids [are] riding without a helmet.” A helmet is the single, most effective device available to reduce head injuries and death in children from a bicycle crash. Yes, a bicycle helmet must be properly adjusted, and not rock back and forth on the head or from one side to the other, but fit snuggly on top of the head for the maximum protection. Also it should have a chin strap with an adjustable buckle to help keep the helmet in place.

Head injuries are serious and can be life-threatening. Whether the rider is on a bicycle or a motorcycle, when a helmet is worn, the wearer has more protection than if he or she is not wearing a helmet. According to the Journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, in an article entitled, “Motorcyclist Fatality Rates and Mandatory Helmet Use Laws” by D.J. Huston and L.E. Richardson (2008) 40(1): 200-8, “Depending on the particular measure that is employed, states with universal helmet laws have motorcyclist fatality rates that are on average 22-33% lower in comparison to the experience with no helmet law. Additionally, partial coverage helmet laws are associated with reductions in motorcyclist fatality rates of 7-10%, on average.”

HHS Health Beat says that wearing a helmet can save young adults’ heads in a motorcycle crash. Researchers at HHS’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality have numbers to show it, according to Ira Dreyfuss of HHS Healthbeat (May 25, 2011): www.hhs.gov/news/healthbeat/2011/05/20110525a.html

Researching data from 38 states on hospitalizations of youth under 21, Claudia Steiner compared states that required every rider to wear a helmet with states that required only people under a certain age, such as 18 or 21, to wear one: “Traumatic brain injury rates were higher in states that require riders only under a certain age to wear helmets.” Steiner’s theory is that in some states which do not require every rider to wear a helmet, some young people have been riding without one. Steiner is, of course, a proponent for universal helmet laws – and helmet-wearing.

So, whether the child or the young adult in your family is riding a bicycle or a motorcycle, helmets are important head protection. Make sure they—and you, if you ride—wear one!

4 Comments

Have an opinion about this post? Please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

  1. KrashTestDumby says:
    up arrow

    Nice statistics. Wear a helmet, reduce the carnage! Simple, isn’t it? But… by addressing only bicycles and motorcycles, you stopped *way* short of the larger sources of Traumatic Brain Injuries!

    According to the CDC (search cdc.gov for “blue_book”) between 2002-2006, there were an average of 218,934 TBI’s incurred in motor vehicle accidents per year. On average 1,113 TBI’s come from bicycle accidents (pg.30). Removing TBI’s from bicycles, motorcycles (9,938) and pedestrians (7,926) leaves us with nearly 200,000 TBI’s coming from “other” vehicles (cars, trucks, buses, etc).

    It gets worse; per the CDC and the Brain Injury Association of America (biaa.org), there are an average of 1.7 million TBI’s annually in the US, carrying a $60 billion price tag in health-related costs. Less than 20% come from all motor vehicles, combined.

    The Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania has an interesting statistic: kids in playgrounds falling down costs PA $1.2 billion (with a “b”) in emergency room and health care related costs, every year! (See the BIAPA.org website under “Prevention -> Prevention Fact Sheets” for other scary details).

    To address the real issue of head injuries in the US would demand you implement a law putting helmets on everybody 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you only want to address the 20% of the TBI’s coming from motor vehicles, then your position would require everybody in or on any vehicle be required, by law, to wear a helmet.

    I would never suggest that not wearing a helmet is a good idea for those on motorcycles and bicycles. But either you’re serious about preventing TBI’s, or you’re not. Motorcycles and bicycles are just the small tip of a titanic iceberg. If you are serious, then I look forward to your revised position statement.

  2. Greg Webb says:
    up arrow

    KrashTestDumby,

    Nice work! I am impressed with your use of the statistics. I am familiar with the dangers of TBI’s resulting from car crashes, having represented many folks with brain injuries. My following comments are off the cuff, to spur further debate: I respectfully believe you may not be comparing apples to apples, but maybe apples to monkeys. Wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle or motorcylce is a reasonable, cost-effective, common sense way to prevent a possible head injury to a person who is not otherwise offered any protection (there is no obviousl “safety zone” on those modes of transportation). The benefits are greater than the risks when helmets are considered. A properly designed automobile, however, offers some form of a safety zone, or an occupant protection zone. Further, I suspect if you compared the rates or ratios of TBI’s from car crashes to serious bicycle or motorcylce wrecks (wearing no helmet), the rates are much lower for car wrecks. The miles traveled in cars vastly exceed those traveled on motorcycles or bicycles, so the actual rates are likely much lower than that of cycles. Further, I suspect the likelihood of serious neck/cervical trauma in a car wreck while wearing a helmet goes up considerably (unless you secure the helmet to the frame of the car, like a race car). Further, a helmet likely restricts a car driver’s ability to scan his surroundings freely because of A and B pillars, seat backs, etc. Risks greater than benefits.

    One can take any fact pattern, and if one carries it to an illogical extreme, one gets an illogical conclusion. Where is the line drawn? Hopefully common sense dictates that, but not always.

    Thank you for reading the blog and commenting. I found your comments very interesting.

    Greg Webb

  3. KrashTestDumby says:
    up arrow

    I’m glad you raised the issue of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). Justifying mandatory helmet laws on VMT’s for motorcycles is a popular mantra. For the sake of argument, I present a few documents and direct quotes from those agencies spreading the “motorcycle VMT” myth in support of helmet laws.

    In summary…

    1) VMT’s for motorcycles are predominately guesswork, and extremely suspect – the DOT/NHTSA/FHWA admit it:
    http://www.nhtsa.gov/DOT/NHTSA/Traffic%20Injury%20Control/Articles/Associated%20Files/811025.pdf

    2) When the 2009 statistics didn’t match expectations, the NHTSA decided it’s time to change the playing field:
    http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FHWA-2010-0010-0100

    3) The methods used to count vehicles can’t, for the most part, effectively count motorcycles – if they can count them at all:
    http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/10mayjun/06.cfm

    In greater detail…

    1) On motorcycle VMT’s, the DOT/NHTSA/FHWA says:

    –> “Reporting by states was optional prior to 2007.”

    –> “States annually report data to FHWA from their motor vehicle registration systems. As a result, such data is based on the definitions developed by States which may or may not approximate FHWA’s definition of motorcycles, motor bicycles, scooters or personalized conveyances.”

    –> “Even for those States that reported motorcycle VMT, it often was only estimated as a standard proportion of total VMT rather than collected directly through surveys or roadside counters.

    –> “FHWA estimated motorcycle VMT for States that did not report based on data from States that did report. The accuracy of these estimates was thus quite speculative.”

    The Motorcycle Safety Foundation says “Currently VMT reporting for motorcycles is optional and contributes to the inaccuracy of the data as it relates to motorcycles. The Motorcycle Industry Council’s Owner’s Survey suggests that FHWA’s data may under-represent actual VMT by over 100%.”
    Pg 2 of: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NHTSA-2007-27159-0005

    Let’s see: no mandatory reporting prior to 2007; no standard definition of “motorcycle” between states; state definitions might not match the DOT/NHTSA/FHWA definitions; estimates from reporting states were often simple calculations based on VMT’s for other types of vehicles; for non-reporting states the DOT/NHTSA/FHWA did their own calculations based on data from OTHER states.

    Not exactly empirical scientific data, now is it?

    2) There’s been a rise in motorcycle registrations reported along with a drop in reported fatalities. The DOT/NHTSA/FHWA have decided it’s time to change the rules…

    –> “States annually report data to FHWA from their motor vehicle registration systems. As a result, such data is based on the definitions developed by States which may or may not approximate FHWA’s definition of motorcycles, motor bicycles, scooters or personalized conveyances.”

    –> “Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) 3 indicated in 2009, motorcycle rider fatalities decreased for the first time after 11 consecutive years of increases… other trends include a dramatic rise in motorcycle ownership and changes in other factors such as motorcycle size and new designs for these vehicles. However, this increase (sic) in fatality data is disproportionate to reported increases in motorcycle registration and in reported miles traveled. Due to this disconnect, safety advocates have encouraged improving the data collection process in order to better analyze and identify rider exposure and crash causality.”

    –> “The FHWA recognizes that some States may incur significant costs if they choose to adopt the new definitions provided in FHWA’s guidance. However, this guidance is not mandatory, therefore, States may avoid incurring any costs by continuing to collect and provide motorcycle data according to their own existing legislative guidelines.”

    That tells me that VMT’s for motorcycles prior to the present, are hogwash (no pun intended). Until the new rules have time to be implemented and conforming data collected, there won’t be conformity to the data. But, oops… under the new rules, states which find the new rules to be costly still won’t have to conform.

    3) Pretty much stands on it’s own: there is currently no national system capable of accurately counting motorcycles. I will add that counting vehicles at traffic lights, humans observing and counting vehicles passing a given point, and rubber hoses on major highways are going to miss my fellow bikers driving the country roads on weekends, or me driving 90 miles round trip to work 5 days a week where 60 of those miles are lightly-traveled back roads (my personal risk-avoidance system).

    I’m thinking motorcycle VMT’s are, at best, smoke-and-mirror calculations and not scientific fact.

    Thank you for the opportunity to hold this discussion! Debate is good for making informed decisions.

  4. KrashTestDumby says:
    up arrow

    It seems the web site software has truncated my URL’s. For your convenience, I’ll try to post shortened URL’s in the same order as presented above…

    DOT/NHTSA/FHWA admit it (PDF): http://goo.gl/O11kN

    Change the playing field (HTML): http://goo.gl/7GYRD

    If they can count them at all (HTML): http://goo.gl/XWrA0

    VMT by over 100% (HTML, but you’ll have to click the PDF to read): http://goo.gl/Yp7G8

    Not trying to be a “post hog!” Uh, sure… pun intended :-)