Should all cyclists be required to wear helmets?
In the state of New Jersey, anyone riding a bicycle under the age of 17 is required to wear a helmet. Otherwise, adults are not required by law to wear helmets, so many don’t. It is certainly suggested that cyclists wear helmets while riding, but it is not required by law. Everyone knows that wearing a helmet can save your life in the event of an accident, but many find helmets to be unfashionable, uncomfortable, and a general inconvenience.
According to data collected by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, there were 19,551 bicycle accidents in Northern New Jersey counties between 2002 and 2012, and 81 of these accidents were fatal. So every year in Northern New Jersey alone, there are roughly 8 fatal bicycle accidents.
New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation, and it can at times be difficult for cyclists and drivers to share the road. Additionally, it’s easy for drivers to get frustrated with slow-moving cyclists who don’t stay all the way off to the side of the road, so it’s commonplace for drivers to aggressively attempt to pass cyclists. This not only puts cyclists at danger, but it also puts other drivers on the road at risk. Mix in the fact that many cyclists don’t wear helmets, and you’ve got a tragic accident just waiting to happen.
Data gathered by state police showed that in the year 2012, of the 14 cyclists who were killed in bicycle accidents in New Jersey, 11 were over the age of 20. Similarly, of the 17 cyclists killed in 2011, 16 were over the age of 20. As these statistics clearly show, adults die in bicycle accidents far more often than kids do. Why? Because most of them died from serious head injuries, injuries that could have been prevented if they had been wearing a helmet.
If New Jersey required all cyclists to wear helmets by law, many fatal bicycle accidents could be avoided. It would be a difficult law to enforce, and many would probably ignore the law, but it’s a law that could be gradually enforced. Currently, kids go on bike rides with their parents all of the time, and they see their parents cycling without helmets on.
Though parents typically make their kids wear helmets, kids still are exposed to their own parents riding bikes without helmets on. We have a huge influence on our children, and if they see us riding bikes without helmets on as adults, they likely will do the same when they are older. However, if a cultural of wearing helmets at all ages is slowly instilled in New Jersey, there could be a time in the near future where everyone wears helmets.