What Happens When You Don’t Wear a Bike Helmet

POSTED BY Andrew Kass||

Not wearing a bike helmet is one of the biggest mistakes a cyclist can make. Many states and localities have laws in place to force you to wear a bike helmet. If you fail to wear a bike helmet, you can be issued a citation and fined. Although no one wants to pay a fine, the real reason to wear a bike helmet is to protect your head. Studies have shown that wearing a bike helmet reduces your risk of serious head injury by about 70 percent. Sure, that statistic is impressive, but here’s why preventing a head injury is essential.

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A serious head injury means one thing: traumatic brain injury. Defined, traumatic brain injury refers to a blow or injury to the head that causes brain dysfunction. Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, can be a life-altering injury. Mild cases of TBI present with a brief loss of consciousness, a headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, and problems with memory. Although troubling, these symptoms usually go away on their own with rest.

Moderate and severe TBI, however, often come with permanent, ongoing symptoms. These symptoms are more severe and include loss of consciousness and coma, slurred speech or difficulty speaking, loss of coordination, agitation, and seizures. These levels of TBI can result in devastating, prolonged and even permanent changes in the level of consciousness. Even if you do regain consciousness, you may struggle with cognitive and intellectual difficulties, communication problems, behavioral changes, emotional problems, and even degenerative brain disease.

When involved in a bike accident no helmet means potential for extra damage to your head. These damages can be mild or more severe and long-lasting. I’m not saying that every traumatic brain injury caused by a bicycle crash could be prevented with a helmet, but we know from proven research that many of them could. Isn’t your life and wellbeing worth wearing a helmet? Isn’t your child’s life important enough to you that you insist that they wear a helmet every time they ride? 

I am not trying to get preachy here, but as a bicycle accident attorney, I have seen firsthand the devastating injuries that can occur when cyclists are involved in a crash and are not wearing a helmet. Trust me when I say that no amount of financial recovery is worth facing a life of severe disabilities and ongoing medical problems.

Here are the Facts Regarding Bicycle Accidents, Injuries, and Fatalities:

  1. In 2019 (the most recent data available), 843 bicyclists were killed on US roads. This number is the highest since 1995.
  2. Approximately half of the crashes were during daylight hours.
  3. Nearly one-fourth of killed cyclists had been drinking.
  4. 71% of fatalities occurred in urban areas and 58% were at intersections

How Do I Pick a Helmet?

  • Get the right fit - When it comes to picking the safest bike helmet, one of the most important factors is fit. A good fit is vital when it comes to adequately protecting your head. The helmet should be snug enough that it won’t come off your head in the event of a crash, but also should fit comfortably. It should sit about halfway down your forehead so that if you crash, it will hit the ground before your face. It is important to try the helmet on and make sure it fits well, so don’t be afraid to ask the bicycle shop if you can try on a number of their helmets.
  • Replace bicycle helmets for children - The safest bicycle helmet for a child is one that is replaced when needed. Children’s heads grow, and a bicycle helmet that fit them this year may not fit well next year. Check them regularly for proper fit and to ensure that your child is wearing the helmet correctly on their head. The helmet should be worn all the time when riding, even when riding in parks or areas where there is no traffic. A bicycle crash can occur anywhere, and a helmet is a protection you cannot afford to be without.
  • Make sure the helmet is certified - The safest bike helmets are certified for cycling. The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Snell Memorial Foundation publish standards by which bicycle helmets can be certified. Be sure that your helmet meets these standards by checking to see that it is certified. This is one way you can be assured that a helmet is safe, even if it is inexpensive.
  • If involved in a bike crash previously, get a new helmet - If you are involved in a bicycle crash and your helmet had any impact whatsoever with the ground, your bike, a car, or anything else, you must get a new helmet. Helmets are designed for one impact only, not for multiple impact situations. When you are involved in a crash, the helmet disburses the force of the impact across the shell and through the inner layers of the helmet. This helps prevent your head from taking the brunt of the impact. Those layers of the helmet are not designed for repeated stress. Even if your helmet wasn’t cracked externally, that does not mean that there wasn’t internal damage. If you are in a crash with head impact, get a new helmet!

Truly, the safest bike helmet is the one that you are going to wear. Fortunately, there are a number of great helmets on the market that are lightweight, stylish, and comfortable. There is no need to feel like a helmet is uncool, hot, or unpleasant to wear. Try on a number of them and take your time in selecting one that works best for you.

Why a Bike Accident with No Helmet is a Risk

Life is about calculated risk — nothing is 100 percent safe, and we all take chances each and every day. But when taking chances, it is important to know the risks. If you choose to bike without a helmet, I believe that is your right. But please, do so knowing the risks. Fatalities and severe injuries are far greater for cyclists who do not wear a helmet. Bike helmets are important for cyclist safety.

At Kass & Moses, we represent cyclists who are injured in bicycle crashes. Many times these cyclists have head injuries and, sometimes, these injuries occur in cyclists who were not wearing a helmet. I guarantee these cyclists would like to reverse time and wear that helmet if they could. TBI is nothing to take lightly: the effects are devastating and can permanently alter your life. If you have been involved in a bicycle crash and want support and guidance as you move through the process of recovery, contact us at Kass & Moses for more assistance.