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).  Links are broken, and CDC has different (smaller) numbers, though car crashes are still a major source of TBI-related hospitalization and death.

In car crash deaths head injuries are the cause of 23% and co-cause of 18%.

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.

One Response to “Mandatory helmet laws”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    I like your reasoning. It correlates with my argument that the health benefits of bicycling far outweigh the risks of biking without a helmet.
    Just think what a boon to the economy all those helmet sales would be! And we could get rid of the side airbags so a passenger could safely place a pillow against the side of the car and catch some sleep.
    And while we are at it let’s have four point harness seat belts just like the race car drivers. Who I might add don’t have airbags in their cars.
    And if there was a drop in the driving rate it would be a win-win situation.
    And a driver not wearing his helmet would easily be seen by police officers who could write up tickets, boosting the local economy!
    Oh wait, the auto industry has been successfully working for decades convincing us that cars are safe. But hey, there is money to be made in helmet sales!

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