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Accid Anal Prev. 2013 Jan;50:59-63. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2012.03.027. Epub 2012 Apr 7.

Emotional reactions to cycle helmet use.

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Institute of Transport Economics, Gaustadalleen 21, 0349 Oslo, Norway.


It has been suggested that the safety benefits of bicycle helmets are limited by risk compensation. The current article tests if previous helmet use influences the response to helmets as a safety intervention. This was investigated in a field experiment where pace and psychophysiological load were measured. We found that after having removed their helmets, routine helmet users cycled more slowly and demonstrated increased psychophysiological load. However, for non-users there was no significant change in either cycling behaviour or psychophysiological load. We discuss the implications of these results for a hypothesis of risk compensation in response to helmet use. We also show that heart rate variability is a promising measure of psychophysiological load in real-world cycling, at least in situations where there is limited physical demand.

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