Children and cycle helmets -- the case against.
Much of the literature on child cycling accidents appears to blame the child as a victim, as though children's activities of playing and travelling were somehow wrong and that children are at fault when an adult drives a car over them. This adult-centred approach then leads to the idea that children should protect themselves with helmets, and that they are to blame if they are injured. However, adults who continue to hold the fantasy that helmets might be of value should know that the British Standard for cycle helmets protects only in a vertical fall of 1 m -- certainly not motor vehicle crashes. Thicker motor cycle helmets would give better protection but, of course, are heavier (and therefore unsaleable). Yet even with compulsory wearing helmets, more motor cyclists still die of head injuries than pedal cyclists. In the Newcastle study, five times as many child pedestrians died of road accidents as child cyclists. Convinced helmeteers should recommend all children playing or travelling in the streets to wear helmets (presumably heavy motor-cycle helmets). Slightly more sceptical proponents might prefer half of them -- in a randomized controlled trial. Car driving appears to have as serious health consequences as tobacco, alcohol and drugs, and to be as addictive (McCarthy 1992). Helmets are similar to filters in cigarettes -- they give the illusion of safety to both consumer and producer of the product, but the illusion is fatal. Yet, for their cardiovascular and mental health, children should have the freedom to cycle in safety around where they live. A profound change in the habits of adults is needed, rather than suits of armour for children.