Riding Safe: Selecting a Bicycle Helmet

Bicycle Helmet SafetyReady to cruise on your bicycle? Not without a helmet you’re not.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly half a million emergency room visits in 2013 were due to bicycle related injuries. Although not all of these injuries were head injuries, approximate 75 percent of 700 bicycle deaths each year are related to head injuries.

With the risk of head injuries significant, it is vital to wear a properly fitted helmet. Helmet use has been estimated to reduce the odds of head injury by 50 percent. Incredibly, only 21 states and the District of Columbia require helmets, but only of persons 17 years of age and younger.

Whether required by law or not, you need to be wearing a helmet on your bicycle. Selecting a bicycle helmet can be a daunting task to those outside the cycling industry as necessary information is not readily available and sometimes confusing. Bicycle helmets are marketed online, large retail stores, and bike shops. Prices can be very significant. With different styles and price ranges, what should you consider when purchasing an important aspect of bicycle safety?

One of the best sources of information is the Snell Memorial Foundation. Snell is a non-for-profit foundation working to provide information and independent testing of sport helmets, including bicycle helmets. When a helmet has been approved by Snell, there will be a Snell sticker inside the helmet. Consumers should look for a helmet that has been tested by Snell.

Snell testing covers four areas:

  1. Impact Management: This determines how well the helmet protects against collisions with large helmets.
  2. Positional Stability: This determines whether the helmet will be in place on the head in the event of a collision.
  3. Retention Strength: This determines whether the chin straps will sufficiently hold the helmet throughout the head impact.
  4. Overall Protection: This determines extent of protection to the head by the helmet.

Most consumers will find a label inside a helmet maintaining that the helmet meets Consumer Product Safety Commission Standard of March 1999. Snell testing augments the CPSC standard.

When you’re ready to purchase your helmet, it is suggested to purchase bicycle helmets from a dedicated bicycle shop. More likely true than not, bicycle shops will be familiar with proper fit and Snell approved helmets. Also strongly consider a helmet color that increases the cyclist visibility to motorists and pedestrians.

Besides Snell, www.helmets.org is also a good resource for learning about bicycle helmet safety.