Do you wear a helmet?

This sub-forum all discussions about this "lively" subject. All topics that are substantially about helmets will be moved here, if not placed here correctly in the first place.

Do you wear a helmet?

Yes
36
31%
No
55
47%
Sometimes
27
23%
 
Total votes: 118

pwa
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Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby pwa » 30 Mar 2015, 2:38pm

Trying to tease out meaningful statistics is still difficult and probably futile because of all the things we don't know. For instance, it seems to me that the cyclists most likely to have accidents are children. They are much better at crashing into things than adults. Do the accident statistics separate them out? Are children more likely or less likely to wear a helmet?

After my own experiences as a child cyclist (waking up in the back of an ambulance after a bang to the head) I insisted on my kids wearing a lid when they were young enough to be told. But, to make my main point clear, if, for example, children have more accidents per km but are more likely to wear a lid, you could infer (incorrectly) that wearing a lid causes accidents. In this scenario (which is just made up) the real cause of the extra accidents would just be childhood. If helmet usage by children (an accident-prone group) is higher than amongst cyclists as a whole, they could make helmet wearing look like a dangerous activity.

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pjclinch
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Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby pjclinch » 30 Mar 2015, 2:43pm

pwa wrote:In truth I do not know whether wearing a helmet adds to or detracts from my safety.


Nobody does. The data is not good enough to predict for an individual whether they are better off or worse off or no difference.

pwa wrote:But I think some of you need to put your calculators down and take a deep breath. How on earth can you hope to produce a meaningful figure for lives saved by wearing a helmet when you don't even know what proportion of head impact incidents are reported? Anyone who is able to walk away from an incident may never appear on any accident record. My own response to an injury is usually to keep it to myself, not to report it. We don't know how many people are able to get up and walk away because they were wearing a helmet. It could be lots, or it might even be none.


This is why the population studies focus on fatalities: nobody gets up and walks away from those, so they're a very good indicator (as explained well in the Tim Gill report I've pointed you at in the past). If helmets made a dent in fatalities then the rates of fatality should change along with wearing rates. But they don't.

Next best data is serious but non-fatal injuries, as practically all of those get reported. And if helmets commuted enough of those in to less serious injuries (i.e., that weren't necessarily reported) then the rates of serious injury should change along with helmet wearing rates. But they don't.

There are some pretty clever people working on it, and they have thought of all the objections like the above. What they haven't done is come up with a population-level benefit for helmet wearing.

What you can say about sparsity of good data for minor injuries is that anything below serious is pretty much conjecture. However, given the, well, minor nature of minor injuries it's not unreasonable to trust the basic materials engineering and testing behind helmets in assuming they've a good chance of doing what they're designed to (that is mitigate minor injuries like scalp wounds and bumps). There might be all sorts of problems cropping up from the way so many are badly fitted, or provide a bigger target/lever etc. etc., but as you've identified these will be lost in the noise unless they're particularly big problems.

Pete.
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mjr
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Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby mjr » 30 Mar 2015, 2:49pm

pwa wrote:Trying to tease out meaningful statistics is still difficult and probably futile because of all the things we don't know. For instance, it seems to me that the cyclists most likely to have accidents are children. They are much better at crashing into things than adults. Do the accident statistics separate them out? Are children more likely or less likely to wear a helmet?

It's far from futile. We need to understand the data that we have, as well as the gaps. It's far more reliable than any examples which we may have experienced personally, which is what makes all the "helmet saved my life" stories so amazingly frustrating.

As for child cyclists, the collision (not only accidents!) statistics do separate them out (when you drill down into reports like http://www.cyclestreets.net/collisions/ ... 521302707/ in enough detail, note it gives the age bands of each person on foot or on bike) as do hospital admissions. I don't have the right details to hand, but I think I remember that children were about average until quite recently - probably more recently than the population helmet usage estimates I cited earlier. That's probably something to watch in future analyses, because child helmets are made to a different standard to adult helmets.

TonyR wrote:
horizon wrote:Anti-helmet people.....


Who are these people? I only know of pro-helmet people and pro-choice people. I don't know of anyone wanting helmets banned.

Actually, I've read such a call over on another website recently. As far as I understand it, the argument was that helmets are predominantly worn by extreme sports riders, road-racers and their fans (is this true? The sage pjclinch has already mentioned "sporty types ... want to look like Cav/Vos etc" a page or so ago in this discussion), but racing has no place on the open public roads, so helmets should be banned except for organised racing events, in order to discourage excessive risk-taking that puts other ordinary road users at risk.

I'm not sure what I think of that, but it seems there are now some people who want cycle helmets banned from general traffic in order to improve safety of other road users.
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
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pjclinch
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Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby pjclinch » 30 Mar 2015, 2:59pm

pwa wrote:Trying to tease out meaningful statistics is still difficult and probably futile because of all the things we don't know. For instance, it seems to me that the cyclists most likely to have accidents are children. They are much better at crashing into things than adults. Do the accident statistics separate them out? Are children more likely or less likely to wear a helmet?


DfT split their stats up in to age brackets.

In places like Oz and NZ where they almost all wear (what with the law) there hasn't been any improvement in Doom Rates from when the rates were much, much lower (pre-law). These give you good places to look for effects, or, indeed, lack thereof.

pwa wrote:After my own experiences as a child cyclist (waking up in the back of an ambulance after a bang to the head) I insisted on my kids wearing a lid when they were young enough to be told.


My daughter has had a couple of trips to A&E having banged her head badly (didn't use an ambulance in either case, but only because it was quicker by car). Once was falling off a sofa and getting the corner of a coffee table right between the eyes, and the other was a dizzy stumble off a roundabout in a playground, which left her with blurred vision for several days.
Do you think if she eventually has children she should insist on something like this... http://www.thudguard.com/product-info for her own children, based on her own experiences as a child? Unless she's racing she rides without a helmet, hasn't managed a bump yet. So according to anecdotal experience notional children she might have wouldn't ride a bike in one, but would play on electronic games sat on a sofa in one. That's a pretty good illustration of some of the pitfalls of working off anecdotes!

pwa wrote:But, to make my main point clear, if, for example, children have more accidents per km but are more likely to wear a lid, you could infer (incorrectly) that wearing a lid causes accidents. In this scenario (which is just made up) the real cause of the extra accidents would just be childhood. If helmet usage by children (an accident-prone group) is higher than amongst cyclists as a whole, they could make helmet wearing look like a dangerous activity.


As noted already, some pretty smart people have thought about this and this sort of thread is not the first time people have said "but hang on, what about...?"
And don't forget that "no result" is still a meaningful piece of statistics. Characterising helmet effects as about zero, plus or minus error bars, is useful information. It means you can't predict for anyone (children included, despite recommendations from all sorts of organisations) if they'll be better off for just getting about whether they wear a helmet or not.

Pete.
Often seen riding a bike around Dundee...

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pjclinch
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Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby pjclinch » 30 Mar 2015, 3:08pm

pwa wrote:For instance, it seems to me that the cyclists most likely to have accidents are children. They are much better at crashing into things than adults.


Children are also far more likely, or so it seems to me looking at the repeat business the school nurse has at my daughter's primary school, to have trips and falls. It's at the point where there is a sheet of "I've banged my head!" stickers and a form letter to send home to parents to say a head injury was sustained but no further action was felt necessary. There is no talk of crash helmets.

The same children riding with high supervision levels in the same playground are forced to wear crash helmets. Not to do so is "irresponsible" and would break the local authority's rules for cycling in school time, even though pre-law data from Australia suggested that in terms of hospital admissions per hundred hours cycling rated about an order of magnitude better than e.g. football and netball.

The problem is mainly cultural perspective caused by misinformation, and nothing much to do with safety.

Pete.
Often seen riding a bike around Dundee...

Steady rider
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Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby Steady rider » 30 Mar 2015, 3:56pm

Back in about 1998 I applied for funding into bicycle balance and riding stability via the DfT, York Uni were prepared to set up the equipment and record the data. It could have been useful to have precise data but funding was not available, helmet effects would have been part of the work. A new approach to the helmet topic may be worthwhile as part of a wider study in riding stability.

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horizon
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Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby horizon » 30 Mar 2015, 4:46pm

mjr wrote:
TonyR wrote:
horizon wrote:Anti-helmet people.....


Who are these people? I only know of pro-helmet people and pro-choice people. I don't know of anyone wanting helmets banned.



Although it was only shorthand. it sometimes feels like that when you don't wear a helmet: who is that irresponsible, dangerous, anti-social, probably drug-taking, ex-hippy, anti-helmet, rebellious, stupid nutter?
When the pestilence strikes from the East, go far and breathe the cold air deeply. Ignore the sage, stay not indoors. Ho Ri Zon 12th Century Chinese philosopher

TonyR
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Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby TonyR » 30 Mar 2015, 5:15pm

pwa wrote:Trying to tease out meaningful statistics is still difficult and probably futile because of all the things we don't know. For instance, it seems to me that the cyclists most likely to have accidents are children. They are much better at crashing into things than adults. Do the accident statistics separate them out? Are children more likely or less likely to wear a helmet?

After my own experiences as a child cyclist (waking up in the back of an ambulance after a bang to the head) I insisted on my kids wearing a lid when they were young enough to be told. But, to make my main point clear, if, for example, children have more accidents per km but are more likely to wear a lid, you could infer (incorrectly) that wearing a lid causes accidents. In this scenario (which is just made up) the real cause of the extra accidents would just be childhood. If helmet usage by children (an accident-prone group) is higher than amongst cyclists as a whole, they could make helmet wearing look like a dangerous activity.


The most useful data on children is that of Hewson. He found that female children are twice as likely to wear a helmet as males but equally likely to have a head injury. Now you can interpret that two ways. One is that helmets make no difference in children either. The other is that girls are much more risk taking than boys. I suspect most people would consider the latter unlikely.

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Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby drossall » 30 Mar 2015, 6:47pm

pwa wrote:But I would be very surprised indeed if I found I took more risks because of the lid. I don't think I do. I get overtaken by unhelmeted riders on dodgy descents on audax rides.


Again, I rather think this misses the point. The idea of risk compensation is that we all have an acceptable level of risk. We adopt a measure that we believe will make us safer (it's immaterial at this point whether it actually works or not). Therefore, we take slightly more risk and yet still feel safer.

You're not really supposed to be able to notice yourself doing this. By definition, you think you're being at least as careful as you were before. However, looking at a whole population, greater risk taking can be seen.

For most people, there is no consequence, but a few unlucky ones have accidents that would not otherwise have happened. These are not the ones who take the most risks, any more than the people who crash are the ones who drive fastest; there's a large element of chance in determining who has an accident.

Across tens of thousands of people, you may get a significant number more accidents without anyone's change in behaviour being large enough to be measurable.

That said, there have been some cases where changes were measurable. I believe there was one study on Berlin taxi drivers after they were given anti-lock brakes, which found that they braked later and harder. They would still have thought they were behaving just as carefully as before though.

drossall
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Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby drossall » 30 Mar 2015, 6:57pm

pwa wrote:How on earth can you hope to produce a meaningful figure for lives saved by wearing a helmet when you don't even know what proportion of head impact incidents are reported?

Not sure that would help. To compare helmets and bare heads, you'd also need to know about accidents where there could have been head injuries but weren't (for example where there is no injury at all but it is perceived that a bare head would have been injured). You end up wanting to know about all crashes with the potential for any injury, even if there wasn't.

Then you have to define head injury. That's another problem with some of the stats, which lump together a mild scratch to the nose with serious brain damage and call everything "head injury".

That's why the approach of looking at overall actual injury rates, described by previous posters, is the best available.

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Cunobelin
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Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby Cunobelin » 30 Mar 2015, 7:07pm

drossall wrote:
pwa wrote:How on earth can you hope to produce a meaningful figure for lives saved by wearing a helmet when you don't even know what proportion of head impact incidents are reported?

Not sure that would help. To compare helmets and bare heads, you'd also need to know about accidents where there could have been head injuries but weren't (for example where there is no injury at all but it is perceived that a bare head would have been injured). You end up wanting to know about all crashes with the potential for any injury, even if there wasn't.

Then you have to define head injury. That's another problem with some of the stats, which lump together a mild scratch to the nose with serious brain damage and call everything "head injury".

That's why the approach of looking at overall actual injury rates, described by previous posters, is the best available.




Cycle helmet research excludes the majority of head injuries.... that is the biggest flaw

TonyR
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Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby TonyR » 30 Mar 2015, 7:08pm

drossall wrote:That said, there have been some cases where changes were measurable. I believe there was one study on Berlin taxi drivers after they were given anti-lock brakes, which found that they braked later and harder. They would still have thought they were behaving just as carefully as before though.


Munich taxi drivers actually. But people have also done studies of cyclists, although not very good ones, that found cyclists went slightly faster when wearing a helmet and on skiers that found the same. The book Risk by Prof. John Adams of Imperial College goes into it in some detail.

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Cunobelin
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Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby Cunobelin » 30 Mar 2015, 7:15pm

pjclinch wrote:
pwa wrote:For instance, it seems to me that the cyclists most likely to have accidents are children. They are much better at crashing into things than adults.


Children are also far more likely, or so it seems to me looking at the repeat business the school nurse has at my daughter's primary school, to have trips and falls. It's at the point where there is a sheet of "I've banged my head!" stickers and a form letter to send home to parents to say a head injury was sustained but no further action was felt necessary. There is no talk of crash helmets.

The same children riding with high supervision levels in the same playground are forced to wear crash helmets. Not to do so is "irresponsible" and would break the local authority's rules for cycling in school time, even though pre-law data from Australia suggested that in terms of hospital admissions per hundred hours cycling rated about an order of magnitude better than e.g. football and netball.

The problem is mainly cultural perspective caused by misinformation, and nothing much to do with safety.

Pete.


Image


Which is what the Thudguard has its place as the argument so mirrors the helmet compulsion stance

Supported by Doctors ....... Tick
Supported by RoSPA ..........Tick
Unnecessary emotive blackmail..... Tick
Thudguard saved my (child's) life...... Tick
No real evidence....... Tick

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Mick F
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Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby Mick F » 30 Mar 2015, 7:25pm

pwa wrote:In truth I do not know whether wearing a helmet adds to or detracts from my safety. So I go with the bits of personal experience and "knowledge" that I have and make a judgement and live with it.
+1
Absolutely.
Mick F. Cornwall

Tonyf33
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Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby Tonyf33 » 30 Mar 2015, 8:34pm

pwa wrote:In truth I do not know whether wearing a helmet adds to or detracts from my safety. So I go with the bits of personal experience and "knowledge" that I have and make a judgement and live with it.

And doesn't PWA's statement encapsulate their freedom of choice, so why should that choice be taken away for something that in my personal experience and knowledge (note the absence of commas) allows me to make that judgement and be happy with it?

Why are we allowing one set of people such freedom to chose but seemingly not another which is often accompanied by bile, strongly phrased words & blame to impart their 'choice' onto you. :evil: