The big debate around cycling helmets

There is no British law to compel cyclists, of any age, to wear a helmet when cycling. This is despite the Highway Code encouraging cyclists to wear a helmet which conforms to current regulations, is the correct size and is securely fastened.
Whether or not cycle helmets prevent head injuries is very much up for debate.

The safety argument is straight forward – better to have a helmet hit the ground than your head. Certainly former rowing Olympian James Cracknell believes passionately that wearing a helmet saved his life and the British Medical Association have stated that wearing a cycle helmet has been shown to reduce the risk of head injuries and the severity of a head injury in non-fatal collisions.

In contrast  the anti-legislation campaign points to a failure to link the compulsory wearing of bicycle helmets and a drop in head injury rates and that helmets are really only capable of offering very limited protection. There is also the suggestion wearing a helmet has an adverse effect on a motorists perception of a cyclists proficiency and motorists will leave less room when overtaking if the cyclist is wearing a helmet.

In the UK a cyclists failure to wear a helmet could lead to an insurer alleging contributory negligence. In other words the insurer could try to argue that they should not have to meet a claim in full if they believe an injury could have been avoided, or the severity reduced, had the cyclist been wearing a helmet. Expert evidence will often be needed to establish if a helmet would indeed have offered any protection and whether the wearing of a helmet might in fact have made the injury worse (by converting direct forces into rotational ones).

The law is, however, different across Europe and so if you are thinking of taking your bikes onto the Continent – or hiring bikes when you are there – make sure you are aware of the law to avoid a fine or an argument against you should a personal injury claim arise.

For example:

Spain – It is obligatory for cyclists of 16 years or less to wear a helmet at all times. Everyone must wear a helmet in non-urban areas, except during periods of excessive heat, on steep hills or if you are a professional cyclist.

France – children aged 12 or under must wear an approved helmet whilst riding a bike – whether pedaling themselves or being carried as a passenger.

Jersey – a cycle helmet is compulsory for children aged 13 years or under.

The Personal Injury Team at Jefferies have significant experience in dealing with cycle accident claims and the complex legal issues often associated with them. Contact Sarah or Ben on 01702 443472