Bicycle Helmet Laws Are Associated with a Lower Fatality Rate from Bicycle–Motor Vehicle Collisions

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Abstract

Objective

To assess the association between bicycle helmet legislation and bicycle-related deaths sustained by children involved in bicycle–motor vehicle collisions.

Study design

We conducted a cross-sectional study of all bicyclists aged 0-16 years included in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System who died between January 1999 and December 2010. We compared fatality rates in age-specific state populations between states with helmet laws and those without helmet laws. We used a clustered Poisson multivariate regression model to adjust for factors previously associated with rates of motor vehicle fatalities: elderly driver licensure laws, legal blood alcohol limit (<0.08% vs ≥0.08%), and household income.

Results

A total of 1612 bicycle-related fatalities sustained by children aged <16 years were evaluated. There were no statistically significant differences in median household income, the proportion of states with elderly licensure laws, or the proportion of states with a blood alcohol limit of >0.08% between states with helmet laws and those without helmet laws. The mean unadjusted fatality rate was lower in states with helmet laws (2.0/1 000 000 vs 2.5/1 000 000; P = .03). After adjusting for potential confounding factors, lower fatality rates persisted in states with mandatory helmet laws (adjusted incidence rate ratio, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.70-0.98).

Conclusion

Bicycle helmet safety laws are associated with a lower incidence of fatalities in child cyclists involved in bicycle–motor vehicle collisions.

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