Fact sheet bicycle helmets
Facts from other countries about safety effects of voluntary or compulsory use of bicycle helmets
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Cycling accidents may lead to injuries, often including serious head and brain damage. The bicycle helmet is intended to reduce the risks of that kind of injury. All over the world there are supporters and opponents of wearing a helmet. Part of the discussion concerns proof for the protective effects of a bicycle helmet. Another part revolves around the possibility that wearing a helmet will lead to a reduction in cycling. The third part of the discussion questions whether promoting helmet use is the best way to increase the safety of cyclists, or whether priority should be given to preventing cycling accidents. This factsheet aims to list the scientific arguments. Over a quarter of all cycling injuries after a traffic accident involve head and brain damage. Approximately three-quarters of the head and brain injuries are caused in accidents without involvement of motor vehicles; among young children this is almost 90%. These are for the most part one-sided accidents. These types of accidents are hard to prevent; but it is possible to limit the severity of the head and brain damage by using a bicycle helmet. According to conservative estimates the risks of head and brain damage decrease by a maximum of 45% when a good bicycle helmet in worn in the appropriate manner. Research in other countries has shown that cycling sometimes decreases, particularly in the first couple of years after introduction of compulsory helmet use. Long-term effects are not known, nor is the relevance of these data for the situation in the Netherlands.