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Boston study offers proof that bike helmets save lives

You've probably heard the expression that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That's especially true when it comes to avoiding traumatic brain injuries or death from a bicycle accident. While many of us grew up riding a bike without a helmet, Massachusetts and several other states now require youth 16 and under to don protective head gear when they ride.

According to a recent study out of Boston Children's Hospital, such laws directly translate to fewer injuries and fatalities. The study focused on the deaths of younger teens and children, who may not be as cautious about traffic when traveling city streets on two wheels. Looking at the number of deaths from bicycle accidents between the years 1999 and 2010, the researchers discovered that states mandating helmet use for young riders reported 20 percent fewer bicycle-related deaths. 

Within the time period the researchers analyzed, 1,612 people in this age group died in bike accidents. States that had helmet laws for teens and children saw lower fatality rates than those without such laws -- 2 deaths per 1 million children, as compared to 2.5. 

The vast majority (about 75 percent) of the 900 people who die each year in bicycle crashes suffer traumatic brain injuries, the study found. In light of that fact, it stands to reason that wearing a helmet can significantly reduce the odds of dying in a collision with a motor vehicle. 

Unfortunately, in some accidents even a helmet isn't enough to protect a bicycle rider from harm. In those cases, victims and their families may need to seek legal recourse to ensure that they're compensated for medical bills and other costs resulting from the accident. But considering the very low cost of the average bicycle helmet, this should be the first investment every bike rider makes.    

Source: Reuters, "Bicycle helmet laws linked to fewer child deaths," Andrew M. Seaman, May 29, 2013. 

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