I must admit that I almost never see a younger kid on a bike in our neighborhood. And when I do they aren't wearing a bike helmet.
The result: A new helmet law reduces bicycle deaths among the affected age group by about 19%. It doesn't affect older riders. Since serious bicycle accidents are rare, however, the absolute numbers are still small, about eight fewer deaths a year among kids 5 to 15 than would otherwise occur in the states with helmet laws. "It's not a ton of lives when you compare it to something like wearing your seat belt," says Prof. Stehr.
One reason for the drop is, of course, that more kids wear helmets when they get into accidents. But another is that many give up cycling altogether. Using surveys of parents, the professors find that about 650,000 fewer children ride bikes each year after helmet laws go into effect. That's about 81,000 fewer riders for every life saved. Helmets may save lives, but the dork factor also takes its toll.
When I was young (and yes that phrase makes me feel just as old as you'd think) I rode my bike all over the place. In the summer months I'd be on it from eight in the morning until forced home by mom. And I don't think I would have done nearly as much with a dorky looking helmet on. In fact, I'm certain of it.
But at the same time, I can't imagine what I'd do if my kid was one of those severely injured ones.