A host of studies show that bicycle helmets protect the rider from severe head injuries. Depending on the study, the reduction in risk of serious head injury is from 70 to 85 percent. Not everyone agrees with this, and there are a few studies that suggest that wearing a helmet might even be harmful to the rider. How? Because some drivers aren’t as careful around helmeted drivers than they are around non-helmeted drivers.

Do Cyclists Have to Wear Helmets?

In California, the only cyclists that have to wear helmets are those under 17 years old, and any helmet sold in California must meet certain safety requirements. That means any cyclist 17 and older must wear an approved helmet to protect their head.

In 2015, a bill was introduced in the California legislature that would have required all bicycle riders to wear helmets. The bill died in committee primarily because of what the passage of the bill would mean to the upward trend in alternative forms of travel like cycling, ride-share bikes, ebikes and scooters.

Helmet v. No-Helmet Common Cyclist Injuries

A couple of things are certain when it comes to helmets and cycling: the debate will continue and so will serious bicycle injuries. Around 700 cyclists die in the U.S. every year in all accident types (motor vehicles, other bicycles, objects and single bicycle crashes), and California leads the way with around 140 to 160 each year and between 90 and 100 of those are in Los Angele County.

So how do cyclists die in these crashes? It’s no surprise that the majority happen from severe head injuries. The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that the majority of cyclists die from head wounds in accidents than any other injury type, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety puts that number over 60 percent.

It then stands to reason that crashes with and without helmets can result in different types of injuries, and this is true.

Head Injuries with a Helmet

  • Upper Facial Bone Fractures: Most helmets protect the cranium leaving the face and lower part of the head relatively more exposed.
  • Jaw Fractures: The jaw is even more exposed and vulnerable to injury in a bicycle crash.
  • Facial Road Rash: With a helmet, the exposed face is sometimes “forced” onto the pavement because of the helmet leading to serious rash injuries.
  • Traumatic Brain Injury: Even with a helmet, TBIs still occur causing serious injury or death.
  • Concussion: Less severe than a TBI, a concussion can be a serios injury and can happen with a helmet.

Injuries Without Helmets

  • Traumatic Brain Injuries: This is the leading cause of death for cyclists in accidents without a helmet. The head is especially vulnerable to serious injury without the protection of a helmet.
  • Concussion: When a blow doesn’t inflict a TBI, a concussion is a likely result.
  • Facial/Jaw/Rash: All of these types of injuries occur without a helmet. According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the use of a helmet reduces all types of head injuries, but the reduction in facial injuries is much less than the reduction in TBIs.

Do I need an Attorney?

Many Los Angeles cyclists who have been injured while not wearing a helmet wonder if they need an attorney. Some think that since it’s not against the law, that failing to wear a helmet won’t be used against them at all. Others think that if they weren’t wearing a helmet, they can’t get compensation.

As we’ve learned, both are inaccurate. At the Law Office of Steers & Associates, we know California bicycle personal injury laws, and we have the experience dealing with the insurance companies and their tactics. We’ve heard it all and know how to get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

A consultation costs you nothing and you can have the peace of mind that someone is standing behind you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Additional Resource