Bike helmets should be compulsory for kids, recommend US academics who studied the relationship between helmet use and serious injury or death after a vehicle collision.
The analysis of 10 years of national data by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital found that that rates of death or serious injury from cycling in states with mandatory helmet laws was 2 children per million, rising to 2.5 children per million in those states without.
However British cycling charity CTC pointed out that mandatory helmet laws could curb the uptake of cycling which combats obesity and conditions such as heart disease.
The US study’s lead author, Dr William Meehan, director of the Sports Injury Prevention and Sports Concussion Clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital, said the aim was to investigate whether compulsory helmet laws had reduced serious injuries or fatalities in cycling.
Dr Meehan told BBC Radio 4: “Currently there are 21 states that require helmet use among young children the other 29 do not and so we thought if we could show the benefit of the legislation itself, maybe it would encourage those 29 states to introduce legislation.”
Roger Geffen, campaigns and policy director at the CTC, said compulsory helmet laws risked sending a message that cycling was more dangerous than it was and would put people off.
He said: “If people are told that you need to wear a helmet that gives people the impression that cycling is far more dangerous than it really is. Actually you’re about as likely to be killed in a mile of cycling as a mile of walking.
“It is far more dangerous to deter people from cycling because that increases obesity, heart disease and so on,” he said.
The American study was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting earlier this week in Washington DC.