Mandatory helmet laws
January 2, 2012
Mandatory helmet laws for car drivers and passengers, of course. Why?
Cars crashes are a significant source of serious head injuries:
almost half of all brain injuries severe enough to require hospitalization (49%, 145,000 people) are the result of motor vehicle accidents. These injuries frequently result in death (56,000) or lasting disability (99,000).
There’s little downside.
Unlike motorcycle helmets, car helmets need not be heavy because drivers are somewhat protected by their cars. Drivers, unlike bicycle riders, are not engaged in significant physical activity, so they don’t need to worry about getting a sweaty head. Some people may be deterred from driving by a mandatory helmet law, just as cyclists in Australia were deterred by their mandatory helmet law. However, while reduced cycling is bad for public health (39% higher mortality rate for non-cyclist commuters — a catastrophe), reduced driving is not; if anything, by displacing people into other forms of transit (walking, cycling, possibly to/from mass transit), it can be a public health benefit.
It is certainly true that some people may not like the idea of wearing helmets to drive or ride in cars, but the same is true of some people riding motorcycles, and some people riding bicycles, yet helmet use is mandatory in most places for motorcyclists and some places for bicyclists. A helmet law for cars would be relatively convenient (just leave the helmets locked in the car when not in use) and less of a burden than the laws that already exist for two-wheeled transportation, and would save more lives.