Consumer Reports: 58 percent don’t wear helmets


by Frank Steele on Jan 08, 2009 at 12:49 PM

Reuters | More than half of U.S. cyclists forgo helmets: report

Whenever we post anything at all about helmets, it tends to descend into a “You’re nuts!”/”No, you’re nuts!” kind of a thing.

However you feel about helmet use, we’re passing along the linked study by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, which found that 58 percent of Americans don’t wear helmets while cycling, and that 92 percent of riders killed while cycling in 2007 were not helmeted.

The study looked to quantify how often Americans “engage in risky behavior,” but only of the Consumer Reports-safe varieties, including driving 10 mph over the speed limit, leaving items on the home stairs, and talking or texting on a cell phone while driving.

Along with helmet use, the study also tracked things people don’t do, like wearing sunscreen or using ear protection when using heavy equipment. It appears in the February ‘09 issue of Consumer Reports, with some details available online.

In other news, I’m not alone in never unplugging my toaster – about half of Americans do likewise.

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My wife saw a vampire electricty feature on Oprah and has been turning off non-essential applicaneces ever since; of course that means, I go to toast some bread and the levers don’t go down cause it’s unplugged!

Many people don’t wear helmets because they aren’t fashionable. I admit. I used to be one. Behold…a solution to the problem!

Fashionable fabric helmet covers, though, detract from the safety benefit of helmets. There’s a reason helmets have a slick surface on them.

BTW, Frank and company: When I visit there’s a popup asking me for my Twitter username and password. No, you may not have my passwords, and I’m more than a little annoyed that you’re asking.

Fritz: That’s not something we’re doing, so we’ve pulled the Twitter sidebar until we know what’s causing people to see these ID/PW requests. Thanks for letting us know!—Frank

hey! I just saw that twitter prompt on another site and it was generated when i clicked from a link off of twitter. is that what you did? It’s that or the twitter feed we have in the sidebar.

I normally stay out of the H-wars, but this is the anniversary week of a crash that changed my riding partner’s life forever.

That prompts me to post this

I reviewed the funky helmets, too. Here was my take:

I don’t think I’m gonna run right out and buy one anytime soon.

Yeah, I saw the Consumer Reports story too.  It’s weird how they just assume that bike helmets are such a significant safety improvement for bicyclists, but mention nothing of pedestrians. If Consumer Reports makes the same point for pedestrians and motorists, that they should wear helmets, then I’ll consider their story to be based on reason and science.

The helmet debate has a lot of emotion and well-ingrained assumptions in it.  I’m going to venture that I’m not perfect in this regard either.  I would just like to see the pro-helmet side be better with their reasoning.

i think the fact that 92% of fatalities were not helmeted is not really the same thing as “helmets prevent the vast majority of fatalities.”

it could mean anything: children are disproportionately killed while riding; they frequently ride helmetless.  maybe that is skewing the stats.

or maybe people who don’t wear helmets are ALSO people who are generally inexperienced and unskilled, leading to a greater chance of a serious accident.  i see people pulling unbelievably stupid maneuvers on a daily basis—most of the time, they’re on a rusty cruiser with no helmet.

just some thoughts.  statistics are damnable liars.

I’d be willing to bet that nearly 100% of automobile accident fatalities were not wearing helmets.  Where is all the outrage about automobile passengers not wearing helmets?

Absolutely - “92% of fatalities were not helmeted” does not mean that helmets prevented fatalities. 

I’m glad to see over half the people have not been mislead, pressured, frightened or legislated into wearing a helmet when there is no evidence that helmets protect against major injury and when cycling is a *safe* activity similar to walking.

Population wide studies show that making sure everyone wears a helmet does not reduce the major injuries/deaths. So any possible effect from helmets must be insignificant (i.e. lost in the noise).

Real safety improvements would be - pure numbers of cyclists, infrastructure and cycle training.

As I’ve commented before, please don’t come here with a fake name, no email, from some dark helmet-hating corner of the Internet claiming helmets actually *cause injuries*. Readers know I watched my wife slide into a curb, hit it with her head, and sat in the emergency room with her while she recovered from a concussion. A helmet saved her life. I know, because I saw it. I didn’t read it in a study. I’ve also seen bloody heads in races; so point is choice. If you don’t want to wear a helmet, I don’t care, but think you should sign a head-injury waiver form so the state doesn’t pick up the tab if you crack your crown (and I hope you don’t).

Also see this [video with Amsterdamnize](, as much as I love that dude, and appreciated his hospitality, I don’t believe his ad-hoc study that helmets actually cause a **reduction** in cycling.

In the 70s, before the internets, were there seatbelt haters?

DL if you don’t care if I wear a helmet or not why do you want me to sign a waiver?

I think that if you want to require some sort of legal idemnification for society you should step up and sign wavier for everything you do that you don’t adequate precautions.  Let’s start with riding in an automobile without a helmet.  Then will move on to crossing the street on foot.  I’m sure with your heightened sense of safety given your experience, you can come up with a whole list. 

Maybe we can get the legal costs added to the stimulus package.

There may be some connection…
Unplugging your toaster can prevent an accidental fire, wearing a helmet can’t prevent a accidental crash. Arguably it can help prevent an accidental concussion in the event of an accident.

However in the event of an accident a hermit doesn’t prevent injury, it just limits the severity of a specific type of injury - manly concussion.

When analysing crash statistic in high speed accidents in an event like the Tour de France where roughly 50% of cyclists don’t wear helmets, helmets don’t seem to prevent head injuries.

That said in my serious mountain bike accidents I have been glad to be wearing a helmet, while I wouldn’t say it saved my life, I can say the inconvenience was worth the reword.

In my bike commute to work, which happened 5 days a week for the last 7 years (less holidays), I have averaged an accident once a year, not wearing a helmet has had no effect on injury prevention. While I advocate safety, wearing a helmet in all of my road accidents would not have prevented a motorist from driving into me, or lessened the severity of my accidents. 

Yes, before the internets, there were lots and lots of seatbelt haters. These folks had lots of anecdotes about people being “thrown clear” of accidents, and thereby walking away from what otherwise would have been a painful, crushing death.

I have never, ever, however, considered unplugging my toaster.

I don’t want you to sign a waiver, the tax and spend, liberal democrats do . . . helmet laws from my knowledge, were written to deter head injuries. Those insisting they don’t need helmets could apply the same logic to seat belts. Remember when the TDF required racers to wear helmets? They did that to save lives and heads. Take your arguments over to Saul Raisin and let us know how far that debate gets. This [helmet saved a brain](

I suspect anti/pro helmet use is a maturity issue. If it is the law, just do it. If it is a choice, make what choice you like but don’t judge others.

I consider my helmet as an insurance against injury. Yes I have come off my bike and hit my head, twice, and ridden away unscathed. I also have health insurance, car insurance, home and contents and life. I am a mother and breadwinner, I owe this duty of care to my family.

I also quite like my helmet. It keeps my hair from whipping around, and contrary to popular myth it keeps my head cooler in tropical conditions.

I suspect if we had demographic data to quantify the 58% there would be an increase in helmet use by age.

Thanks for a good post that hasn’t degenerated to the usual low level in this debate.

There is a very old saying, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. Without knowing the cause of death just saying 92% of dead cyclists were not wearing helmets is misleading.

Also how many of those dead cyclists were hit by motor vehicles? Bicycle helmets were not intended for protecting the head from the kind of impacts sustained during motor vehicle crashes. If they were they would look more like motorcycle helmets. Bicycle helmets were designed for falling off the bike and hitting the head, at a speed of about 12 MPH.

Now with all that you might assume I’m one of those anti-helmet people, but no. I wear the best helmet I can afford every time I ride my bike. As bad as they are and as little as they protect, bike helmets are the only PPE we have on the bike. Also they are lawyer vaccine, if you get killed but you are wearing a helmet your lawyer can say you were doing everything in your power to protect yourself on the bike when your survivors sue the pants and underwear off the driver that hit you…;)

I would like the no-helmet lobby to upload videos to YouTube demonstrating how their heads survive various accidents without a helmet

* Run into a wall
* Fall off the bike
* Get doored

Let’s see how that works and the results.