You almost never see a bicyclist of any age on Southern California roads without a helmet. In most cases, cyclists wear them for safety reasons. Serious cyclists often choose helmets that reduce wind resistance and help them keep up with their buddies or competitors. California law does require that all cyclists under 18 and any children they’re carrying wear an approved helmet or be assessed a fine.
A helmet, of course, won’t protect your entire body if you’re involved in a crash. They do offer protection against traumatic brain injury (TBI), but how much? Some helmets offer more protection than others, but how do you know which ones those are?
Helmet manufacturers conduct their own tests, but it’s always wise to view those with some skepticism. The federal government tests helmets. However, they’ve never been known for providing the most current information.
What makes an effective helmet?
Researchers at the Helmet Lab at Virginia Tech test virtually every type of helmet on the market for motorcycles, bikes and sports and rank them for effectiveness against brain injury. They have some interesting observations about why falls from bikes can be particularly damaging to brains and what makes an effective bike helmet.
They note that a cyclist who is knocked off their bike or otherwise falls from it is moving horizontally but falling vertically. That means that if they strike their head on the ground, it’s typically at an angle. For that reason, helmets that use rotational technology that allows them to move slightly to offset the rotation of the head as the cyclist falls offer the best protection.
Bike helmets can certainly reduce the severity of brain injuries in instances where a cyclist is knocked from their bike or simply falls. However, even the newest, most effective helmet is no match against a vehicle. If a loved one has suffered catastrophic or fatal injuries due to the negligence or recklessness of a driver, it’s essential that you don’t settle for less than the compensation you need and deserve.