Fitness & Health, Sports Medicine
Comment 1

Should cycle helmet laws only apply to children?

In many countries it is a legal requirement for cyclists to wear bicycle helmets but the UK is currently not one of these.

An increasing number of interest groups, including the British Medical Association, want to change this, arguing that mandatory cycle helmet laws will reduce the incidence of head injuries.

They argue that this will be both good for cyclists (because they will suffer fewer head injuries) and good for society (because the burden of having to treat cyclists suffering from head injuries will be reduced).

Now a controversial article in The Journal of Medical Ethics reports that proposed legislation to make cycle helmets compulsory in the UK should only apply to children given that the evidence is inconclusive that cycle helmets provide a substantial protection against serious head injuries in adults.

The authors from St George’s, University of London and the London Deanery argue that people should in principle be entitled to risk their own health if they choose to do so.

They suggest that cycle helmets may not be especially effective in reducing head injuries and state that the imposition of such a restrictive law would violate people’s freedom and reduce their autonomy.

They also argue that those who accept what they see as a restrictive law would be committed to supporting further legislation which would force many other groups – including pedestrians – to take fewer risks with their health.

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