If you're riding a bicycle, you should wear your helmet. It's the one thing protecting your head in the case of an accident. However, not all helmets are created equal. In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers from Virginia Tech and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety teamed up to examine the effects of various styles.
While engaging in safe riding can reduce your risk of accident, bike crashes and the resulting blows to the head still happen. "[W]hen you do hit your head, you want to have the very best protection because you want to reduce the forces that the brain is experiencing," says Steve Rowson, director of the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab and an associate professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics. Rowson's team are known for their work evaluating football and hockey helmets. (In case you were wondering, Tom Brady's Riddell VSR4 helmet earned only one star in testing and was banned by the NFL.)
Current standards for bicycle helmets were set in 1999 by the government; however, these standards do not address the most common injury associated with bike accidents: concussions. Helmets are effective in limiting skull fractures and death, but they can't prevent concussion, nor prevent all injuries.
Bicyclist fatalities have risen by over 20 percent in the last decade. In 2015 alone, over 81,000 people in the U.S. visited the ER for bike-related head injuries. In 2016, 840 people died in bike accidents, which was the highest total in the U.S. since 1991. It was this rise that prompted avid cyclist David Zuby, executive vice president and chief research officer at the Insurance Institute, to get the study started two years ago.
An important finding in the study was that safety can be found at many price points. A $75 helmet performed similarly to another that cost $200. Also intriguing is that both helmets utilize the same technology in their design. Multi-Directional Impact Protection System, or MIPS, was used in both helmets. MIPS is a new technology with an inner layer that allows just enough movement to reduce the amount of force applied to the head. Four of the top helmets were equipped with this system.
Urban-style helmets, which are rising in popularity and are made with a thin layer of foam, performed poorly. While best-performing helmets only resulted in a concussion about a tenth of the time, the lowest-rated helmets resulted in a concussion nearly a quarter of the time.
Helmets are only part of the safety puzzle
While helmets help to prevent many head injuries, they can't prevent crashes from happening in the first place. Ultimately, what we need is safe, defensive driving, and it needs to start early.
Teens should build safe habits no matter what they're doing. Make sure they wear their helmets while on bikes. When they get their licenses, make sure they understand to leave their phones alone and avoid drinking and driving.
The contest is open to graduating high school seniors in Maine who wish to send a message to their peers about the dangers of drinking and driving and the dangers of distracted driving. Share with a graduating teen you know.
And if you or a loved one has been injured in a bicycle accident, contact us today to find out how we can help. Our attorneys know the Maine law and have the experience and expertise to handle even the most complex claims. In over 45 years, the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein has helped more than 25,000 injured or disabled Mainers get the justice they deserve.