Indiana law does not require cyclists to wear helmets, but a growing number of studies suggest that lives would be saved if it did. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that one in three bicycle accidents in the United States leaves the cyclist involved with a head injury, and a study conducted by the agency reveals that cycling causes more traumatic brain injuries than any other sports-related activity.
How bicycle helmets protect the head
Most bicycle helmets have three layers. An outer shell made out of polycarbonate plastic cracks and deforms on impact to distribute energy and dissipate the force of a collision. Beneath the outer shell is a thick layer of expanded polystyrene foam that compresses when the head strikes an object or the road to absorb energy. The innermost layer of a bicycle helmet is padding that improves comfort but does little to protect the head. The most advanced bicycle helmets also have a low-friction layer that reduces rotational motion, which causes more severe head injuries than linear motion.
Bicycle helmets save lives
Bicycle helmets do not prevent the type of rapid head movement that causes concussions, but they do significantly reduce traumatic brain injuries. A Norwegian researcher who studied the medical records of more than 100,000 cyclists who suffered accident injuries discovered that wearing a helmet lowered the risks of suffering a serious head injury by approximately 60%. When researchers from the University of Arizona analyzedthe cases of 6,267 cyclists who were treated for brain bleeds following bicycle accidents, they noticed that helmeted riders died less frequently and developed severe TBIs about half as often.
Making the roads safer for cyclists
Cyclists who wear helmets are less likely to be killed or suffer severe head injuries in an accident, but their safety ultimately lies in the hands of motor vehicle drivers. If the roads are to be made safer for cyclists, motorists must be held responsible when their negligent behavior causes harm to others.