Research has revealed that bike helmets decrease the risk of brain injury by over 85%. A safety approved, properly fitted helmet can help you to avoid serious injury or death.
British Columbia is home to wonderful biking opportunities, including trails, mountain roads, bike paths, and city streets. Cycling is a reasonably safe activity, especially as most cyclists recognize the need to protect themselves from potential head injury, brain injury, or spinal cord injury with the appropriate protective wear.
Some riders still fail to wear a helmet, however, or to wear one consistently. Many cyclists die every year after a crash or collision (with many more suffering permanent brain injury). The cause of most of these deaths is head injuries.
Here’s a look at helmet safety in Canada and some tips on how to make sure your helmet is the right one for you so you can ride safe.
Helmet laws in Canada
Eight out of ten provinces currently have helmet laws (Saskatchewan and Quebec are the exceptions). Of these, only five provinces require adults to wear bicycle helmets when riding. British Columbia is one of these five.
- British Columbia — all cyclists
- Manitoba — cyclists under 18
- Alberta — cyclists under 18
- Ontario — cyclists under 18
- Nova Scotia — all cyclists
- New Brunswick — all cyclists
- Newfoundland — all cyclists
- Prince Edward Island — all cyclists
What the docs say
According to the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP), who has issued a position statement on bicycling safety in Canada, the most important contributing factors to injuries incurred while cycling are the built environment, the visibility of the cyclists, and the use of bicycle helmets.
Among the CAEP recommendations for changes to public policy are:
- Bicycle helmet legislation in all provinces to make helmets mandatory for cyclists of all ages
- Bicycle helmet legislation approved for provinces without any current law, as soon as possible
These recommendations are based on research from Ontario coroner’s reports, which included the following facts:
- Cycling deaths are more likely to occur in those without helmets. Cyclists whose causes of death included a head injury were three times more likely to not be wearing a helmet compared to those who died of other injuries.
- The proportion of helmet use was very low – only 26% of those cyclists killed during the study period were wearing a helmet.
As well, the CAEP states that a Cochrane systematic review reported:
- Helmets reduce the risk of head, brain and severe brain injury for all cycling ages by 63-88%
- Helmets appear to provide protection for crashes involving motor vehicles (69%) and crashes from all other causes (68%)
- Injuries to the upper and mid facial areas are reduced 65% with helmets
If you have a friend or family member who is resistant to wearing a helmet, you may want to share these stats with them!
Tips for choosing a helmet
Not every helmet is created equal. For optimal protection, be sure that you are choosing and fitting yours properly.
A few “fit tips”:
When wearing a helmet, ensure the helmet fits snugly and covers the head. Make sure that the edge of the helmet is positioned two fingers above the eyebrows to protect the forehead. The straps should meet in a V shape just below the ears and one finger should fit between the chin and the chinstrap. (Ministry of Transportation — Ontario)
With the helmet on your head, try to move it gently from side to side, and back and forth. It should be snug enough to move the skin. If not, use the thicker foam padding provided with the helmet to make it more snug. Then tighten the chinstraps with enough room to slide one finger between the strap and the chin. (Nova Scotia Bicycle Safety)
Additionally, there are some very specific fit tips here and a few things to watch out for when purchasing your helmet here.
Unfortunately, even with all of our information about the importance of helmets, and how to wear them, bicycling accidents cannot be prevented altogether. If you or someone you know has been involved in a cycling accident, a member of our team can answer any questions during a free consultation for accident victims. Remember to ride safely and to always wear your helmet.