The Debate over California’s Proposed Mandatory Helmet Law

A bill introduced last week by state Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) would extend California’s youth helmet requirement to adults, mandate reflective clothing while biking at night and fine cyclists $25 for not complying.” – Huff Post

The debate rages on whether to make it mandatory for adults to wear helmets.  California had 124 bicycle deaths in 2012, most from people not wearing helmets.  In Australia after mandatory helmet laws were implemented in 1990 bicycle deaths from accidents dropped by a quarter.  But bicycle ridership also dropped by a quarter.  So assuming a quarter drop in fatal bicycle accidents deaths in California fatalities would drop by 31 from 124 to 93.  But if we assume that there are 200,000 cyclists in California the drop in people riding their bikes could be 50,000 based upon Australia’s data.  More people are killed in car accidents in one week than are killed on bikes in one year.  Perhaps there should be a mandatory helmet law for people riding in cars.  That makes far more sense.

I feel that the 31 lives saved with a mandatory helmet law is far outweighed by the drop of 50,000 people riding their bikes today.  I have written many posts showing the importance of getting more people to ride their bikes instead of drive their cars.  Making bicycle lanes far safer will both reduce bicycle accidents between cars and increase the number of people bicycling our streets without a change in the helmet laws.

Last year we had one bicycle fatality but that teenager tragically killed was wearing a helmet.  It is common sense to wear a helmet as I always do but if fewer person ride their bike because of such a law I’d rather not have such a mandatory law.  The better overall good would be served for more people to ride their bikes than the very few who loose their lives because they did not exercise common sense.  And safer bicycle lanes using for example Protected Bicycle Lanes would go much further towards saving lives.  Adults must be responsible for exercising common sense since so few cyclists are killed annually.  We cannot legislate mandatory helmet laws for adult if it discourages them from riding their bikes.  It is my opinion that getting more cars off the road by making bicycle lanes safe is far more important.

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About Frank G

Sustainable Bicycle Advocate
This entry was posted in Article, Considerations and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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