Australia’s top doctors back mandatory bicycle helmet laws

07 Mar 2017

Australia’s chief doctors have joined with VicRoads, the Transport Accident Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services in support of mandatory bicycle helmet laws.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), which includes chief health officers from each Australian state and territory, and other experts, has endorsed a position paper supporting the laws.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Professor Charles Guest said helmet laws play a critical role in helping to reduce bicycle-related head injuries.

“Road safety and public health share many principles, such as putting prevention first,” Professor Guest said.

“The inconvenience of wearing a helmet is a small price to pay when compared with the costs and consequences of a brain injury.”

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons also supports mandating bicycle helmets, with trauma surgeon Mr Christian Kenfield stating that cyclists are extremely vulnerable to injury from falls and collisions.

“You can come off your bike when you least expect it, whether you are riding fast or slow,” he said.

“The brain has a similar consistency to firm jelly; it’s not designed to absorb the type of impact that occurs when the skull hits a hard surface. A helmet helps to absorb the energy from the fall and protect the brain from the full impact.”

VicRoads Director Road User and Vehicle Access, Robyn Seymour said the Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Laws in Australia Background Paper advocated policy makers’ work in continuing to help keep cyclists safe.

“Just as a seatbelt protects a motorist, a bicycle helmet protects a cyclist,” she said.

“A helmet is the last line of defence in protecting a cyclist from a potentially devastating brain injury.”

Transport Accident Commission Senior Road Safety Manager, Samantha Cockfield said it is crucial cyclists do everything possible to keep themselves safe on the roads.

“Protecting vulnerable road users like cyclists is an important part of our Towards Zero vision for a future free from deaths and serious injuries on our roads,” she said.

“If we are to get to zero, we need everyone to make good choices on the roads, and for cyclists this means being visible and wearing a helmet so they can protect themselves when the unexpected happens.”

The background paper follows one of the largest ever studies into bicycle helmet effectiveness that found helmets could significantly reduce the chances of a serious head injury by almost 70 per cent. The research was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology last year.

Read the Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Laws in Australia Background Paper here.

VicRoads Media Contact: Denis Brown – 03 9854 2160

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