Bicycle helmets are not without controversy. Statistically, helmet use is not the key to reducing bicycling injuries. True safety is far more dependent on things like car speed limits, bike lanes and other bicycle infrastructure. Bicyclists are safest when there are lots of them and motorists consistently factor them into safe driving practices. But if we accept that an accident is going to happen, the rider is much better off wearing a helmet than not wearing one.
The right helmet
As we have discussed before, brain injuries do not heal easily. Reducing the severity of a head injury can make all the difference in the world for a cyclist. Some helmets are better at reducing injuries than others. Unfortunately, bicycle helmet safety standards are ineffective, or at least incomplete, when it comes to helping consumers make the safest choice.
The world of skateboarding has increased the popularity of a certain style of helmet. These “urban” helmets are stylish, but they are not a good choice if your goal is to protect your brain in a bike accident. Their construction does little to limit the concussive force passed on to the brain in a collision. Worse, they are particularly ineffective at in preventing impact to the side of the head and forehead. These are the areas that most bike accident victims tend to hit.
Safety standards and safety testing are inadequate in the area of bike helmet safety. Recent research has shown that helmets equipped with a Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) perform better than other styles of helmet. But this research is relatively new and has not been performed on many of the helmets on the market. Those who are looking for optimal safety should choose a MIPS-equipped helmet, but should also be on the lookout for more information about helmet safety in the future.
As always, the best way to avoid injury is to avoid a collision in the first place. Riders, like drivers, should avoid distraction and refrain from biking while intoxicated. A helmet is an excellent safety option, but it does not replace sound judgment and proper care.