In the United States at least 21 states have mandatory bicycle helmet laws, and throughout all of the Canada and Australia, riders are obligated to wear helmets, too. The reasons for such widespread helmet requirements are simple: hundreds of people are injured or killed every year in bicycle accidents, and many would have survived or been less severely injured had they worn a helmet. In fact, according to some statistics, roughly 1/3 of the 500k+ injuries from bicycle accidents each year are to the face and the head.
With these figures available, we can see that wearing a helmet is going to limit the amount of injury you will sustain from a bicycle accident or fall. However, it may surprise you to learn that cycling experts set the actual figure at 85%.
Buying a Helmet
So, whether or not you live in a location with mandatory helmet laws or not, you will reduce your risk of head injury by more than 80% if you just wear a helmet. Keep in mind that vast improvements are made each year in helmet design and if you have bad memories of uncomfortable or ill-fitting helmets in the past, it is unlikely that you will run into such problems today.
This does not mean that you should just choose whatever helmet you feel looks the best. Below are several steps you will want to use when purchasing a bicycle helmet, and each of them is just as significant as the other:
Used or new? It is okay to save money and to buy a used helmet. Just be sure it is in great condition. The straps must all work properly and be secure. There should be no broken or cracked pieces, and if it shows a manufacturing label dated before 1999, it will not pass in states with mandatory helmet laws.
1999 and beyond – Your helmet (whether used or new) must have a CPSC sticker in place. This means it was made to the Consumer Product Safety Commission standards that went into effect in early 1999. These standards provide the utmost protection during any impact or crash.
How to fit a helmet – First things first, this is a helmet and not a hat or fashion statement. It will not tilt back and away from your face but will instead sit level on top of your head. It will be low across your forehead – about two of your fingers width above your eyebrows. Can you see the front edge of the helmet when you glance up? If so, it is in the right position.
It must not quickly shift from side to side or move up or down. This means the chinstrap should buckle comfortably, and you should be able comfortably to slide your finger between your chin and the strap around it. However, it must not be too loose. Open your mouth. Does the helmet pull lightly down? Then it is a good fit.
Troubleshooting helmet fit – Not fitting as it should? Go up or down a size to see if this is the remedy. If the helmet you are choosing has various thicknesses of padding, see if that is the problem. The goal is to get a good fit that does not move at all – no matter how hard you shake your head or pull the helmet. However, it must not be so tight as to be uncomfortable. Adjust the straps and ask for help if all else fails.
Once you are done with these steps, you will have a thoroughly protected head for bicycling in all locations. You can also use this method for choosing a helmet if you are a roller or in-line skater, someone who uses a skateboard and for all of the members of your family. Helmets save lives, take the time to get a properly fitting one and then enjoy safe cycling with friends and relatives.