Thackray Williams Cycling Club understands the joys and pleasures of cycling. The club is often seen on Sundays peddling around enjoying the Kent countryside. All members of the Thackray Williams Cycling Team wear high visibility clothing and a bike helmet, and Thackray Williams would always recommend that this is done; however, there does remain a great controversy on the use of helmets in cycling.
Currently in the UK it is not compulsory to wear a helmet when cycling. Therefore, there are no criminal penalties for failing to ride without a helmet.
However, the Highway Code does include a recommendation that “you should wear a cycle helmet which conforms to current regulations, is the correct size and securely fastened”.
As a result when submitting a personal injury claim as road traffic accident, a Court is able to determine that a cyclist who has not worn a helmet has contributed to their injuries and reduces the level of compensation awarded. This is known as “Contributory Negligence”
The controversy regarding the use of helmets arises from a number of reports on their effectiveness. Some experts feel that bicycle helmets are effective at preventing head injuries, brain injuries and fatalities. This was supported by a number of different reports, which show that cycle helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by 85%, brain injury by 88%, severe brain injury by 75% and fatalities by 15%.
Nonetheless, some studies indicate that a helmet can in fact increase the risk of sustaining serious injury as the helmet protects the head from impact but it does not protect the brain from collision with the skull. Furthermore, there is anecdotal evidence that car drivers will allow more room when passing a cyclist when they are not wearing a helmet.
Since 2009 there have been a number of High Court decisions on whether compensation for personal injury claims as a result of accidents when cycling should be reduced. The decisions to date all relate to serious brain injury cases.
The Courts has frequently ordered that there should be a percentage decrease in the amount of compensation to reflect the fact some of the blame and injuries were caused by the cyclist as a result of failure to wear a helmet.
As a result, motor insurance companies now routinely try to seek deductions when settling head injury claims of cyclists who did not wear helmets.
A deduction is not appropriate in all circumstances and when submitting a personal injury claim it is important to discuss contributory negligence with your solicitor.
Cycling helmets are currently not tested at speeds above 12mph. If there is a collision with a car the speed of the cyclist impacting the ground may be above this, therefore, it is questionable whether a helmet would make a difference and so should a deduction be made.
Turning aside from compensation the impact of a head injury can be severe. Thackray Williams would recommend all cyclists reduce this risk by wearing a bike helmet at all times. The most important thing is to ride safely and continue to enjoy cycling, much like the Thackray Williams Cycling Club.