Helmet laws aren’t broken – why fix them

Two of Australasia’s peak associations for road safety and prevention of trauma, the Australasian College of Road Safety (ACRS) and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS), have today joined forces to call for the Queensland (QLD) government to maintain current regulations which recognise the significantly increased risk of head injury to cyclists who do not wear bicycle helmets.

This joint statement comes in response to last week’s QLD Parliamentary Committee Report which recommends a 24 month exemption from bicycle helmet laws for cyclists aged 16 years and over riding in parks, on footpaths, shared or exclusive bike paths, or roads with speed limits of 60km/h or under.

ACRS President Lauchlan McIntosh AM noted that the Parliamentary Committee report is deeply concerning for all members of the community.  “I encourage the Queensland Government to continue its good work in improving road safety in many areas.  To support this recommendation would be an aberration in this Government’s good standing, and would be a decision in strong opposition to expert opinion from researchers and trauma surgeons.” 

Dr Richard Lewandowski from the RACS QLD Trauma Committee, stated that “300 bike riders could each have a simple event or fall, and simply because they were wearing a helmet, they will get up, brush themselves off and continue on their way.  And no statistician will ever hear about it.”

“But change the law and have one cyclist, not wearing a helmet, suffer permanent brain damage or die in a simple, low-speed fall, and everyone will hear about it,” said Dr Lewandowski. “Helmet laws aren’t broken – don’t fix them.”

Professor Narelle Haworth from QUT’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – QLD (CARRS-Q) said “head injuries are among the most horrific injuries to suffer from.  Our data suggests that if the Committee’s recommendation was implemented, then the total number of head injuries from bicycle crashes in Queensland could increase by up to 60 per cent.”

The ACRS, RACS and CARRS-Q would like to support the work of the QLD Government, in this UN Decade of Action on Road Safety, to help reduce the crash and trauma rate.

Further information about the ACRS, the RACS and CARRS-Q can be found at their respective websites. The Complete QLD Parliamentary Committee Report can be downloaded here.