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Accid Anal Prev. 2018 Nov;120:239-249. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2018.08.001. Epub 2018 Aug 30.

Recommend or mandate? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of mandatory bicycle helmet legislation.

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Institute of Transport Economics, Gaustadalleen 21, N-0349, Oslo, Norway. Electronic address:


If all cyclistswere wearing helmets, significant numbers of head injuries might theoretically be prevented. Mandatory bicycle helmet legislation increases helmet use but is a controversial measure. Results from 21 studies of the effects of mandatory bicycle helmet legislation on injuries among crash involved cyclists were investigated by means of meta-analysis and the effects of several potential biases were investigated. The summary effect of mandatory bicycle helmet legislation for all cyclists on head injuries is a statistically significant reduction by 20% (95% confidence interval [-27; -13]). Larger effects were found for serious head injury (-55%; 95% confidence interval; [-78; -8]). Among children, larger effects were found when legislation applies to all cyclists than when it applies to children only. There is no clear indication of the results being affected by publication bias. Publication bias may exist, but any existing biases seem to more or less outweigh each other. Results from meta-analysis do not indicate that the results are systematically affected by a lack of control for time trend bias, choice of comparison group or study design (before-after vs. case control). Summary effects may be somewhat overestimated because of a lack of control for potential confounding variables in some of the studies. However, such a bias, if it exists, is not likely to be large. Empirical evidence for the hypotheses that mandatory bicycle helmet legislation deters people from cycling and that helmet wearing leads to behavioral adaptation is mixed. In summary, mandatory bicycle helmet legislation can be expected to reduce head injury among crash involved cyclists. Some adverse effects may occur, but will not necessarily be large or long-lasting. People who may be deterred from cycling, are among those with the highest injury risk and the smallest health effects from cycling. If the overall goal is to improve safety for all cyclists and to increase cycling, mandatory bicycle helmet legislation should be supplemented by other measures, especially improved bicycle infrastructure.


Cyclist; Head injury; Mandatory bicycle helmet legislation; Meta-analysis

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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