This is the email I sent to my representatives regarding the proposed helmet law in MN. (for more info go to http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/ and search for HF918)
If you want to contact your representatives, this website will help – http://www.gis.leg.mn/OpenLayers/districts/
I am writing you to request that you do NOT support H.F. No. 918 requiring bicycle operators under age 16 to wear protect headgear.
First off the efficacy of bicycle helmets to reduce brain injuries has yet to be conclusively proven. Some of studies cited as proof are seriously flawed in their methodologies. There is still debate as to whether bicycle helmets may actually contribute to more serious brain injuries like diffuse axonal injury. Some studies have shown that motorists behave more aggressively around cyclists with helmets, presumably because they think the cyclist is better protected against injury. Some studies have shown that the cyclist actually rides more aggressively because of the false sense of safety he feels from wearing a helmet. The one way we can be sure that injuries will be reduced is by a reduction in the number of people riding bicycles. Studies have shown reductions by 4% to as much as 50% depending on the location and the severity of the helmet law. At a time when physical activity among children is sorely lacking, do we really want to reduce it?
However, even if the helmet is effective in preventing brain injuries, it is not the place of the state to force my children, or any children to wear one. Even if it were, why are bicycle riders being singled out? A 1998 report from the Federal Office of Road Safety showed that brain injuries among motorists would be cut by 25% percent if motorists were required to wear bicycle helmets (even where airbags were used.) In 2009 in the U.S. 33,800 people died in automobile accidents. 4,092 pedestrians were killed by automobiles. During that same time period only 630 died riding their bicycle (again, the vast majority from accidents involving motor vehicles.) Both pedestrians and motorists have a much greater risk of being killed. Are we going to pass helmet laws for them too? The death rates for heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes are higher than all of those. Should we try to legislate healthy eating habits after we get everybody wearing helmets? Even a toothless law like this one is overstepping the bounds of government. We don’t need the state dictating every decision to us. The point of FREEDOM is being able to make your own decisions. The way I see it there can only be one purpose for this law and that is to open the door for farther reaching enforceable helmet laws in the future.
If the state is actually interested in bicycle safety, Europe has shown that education and infrastructure are the path to safety for cyclists, not helmets. Helmets are going to have very little effect if motorists keep hitting cyclists. This is either about appearing to be pro-bicycle without being willing to invest in true bicycle safety, or it’s about control. When helmet laws have come up in France, Italy, Spain, & England they have looked at the example of Australia whose helmet law was basically a complete failure because it reduced bike use and therefore bike culture and advocacy and made cycling less safe than it was to begin with. In each of those countries helmet laws have been voted down, sometimes multiple times. We don’t need a helmet law here either. Please vote against this law.