Too Few Children Wear Bike Helmets

Despite state laws mandating that those under the age of 18 use of bicycle helmets, a review of emergency department records in Los Angeles County found that only 11 percent of children in bicycle accidents were wearing a helmet.

Despite state laws mandating that those under the age of 18 use of bicycle helmets, a review of emergency department (ED) records in Los Angeles County found that only 11 percent of children involved in bicycle accidents were wearing a helmet. In the United States, bicycle injuries are responsible for more than 250,000 visits to the ED and nearly 200 deaths a year. California has the second highest number of cyclist fatalities.

Veronica Sullins, MD, and colleagues at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, CA, presented research at the American Academy of Pediatrics 2013 National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, FL, showing that of the 1,248 children identified as having bicycle accidents, 11 percent were wearing helmets when their injuries occurred. Of those children wearing helmets when they were injured, 13.8 percent were younger than 12 years of age and 9.8 percent were 12 years or older. The median age of the children was 13 years and 64 percent were male.

Helmet use was 47 percent more likely in the younger age group, 10 times more likely in white children than in children from minority groups, and twice as likely in children who were covered by private health insurance as in those covered by public or no insurance.

Sullins noted that of the nine deaths in the study, eight children were not wearing helmets.

The use of bicycle helmets reduces head injuries by 63-88 percent, Sullins noted. She and her team recommended that middle schools, high schools, low-income communities and minority populations in Los Angeles County be targeted for bicycle safety programs.