State Senator Chris Edwards (D-Eugene) is behind two bills this session that would strengthen Oregon’s helmet laws.
Sen. Edwards wants to raise the age limit for mandatory helmet use from 16 to 18 years of age (SB 742) and he wants to make helmet use mandatory for all ages when, “participating in an organized exhibition, competition or contest” (SB 741). Both bills are set for a hearing and possible vote in the Senate Business and Transportation Committee on March 25th.
According to Edwards’ Legislative Aide Holly Fifield, the concern over helmet use was brought to his attention during a meeting with a family last fall. “The family has a son who competes in skateboard competitions and that child has learned that there are benefits to not wearing a helmet [in competition],” wrote Fifield via email. Apparently judges in some skateboard competitions will award higher scores to people without helmets because the trick being performed is deemed to have a higher degree of risk. “So, if there were two athletes who performed the same trick successfully,” Fifield explained, “the judges would give a better score to the athlete who wasn’t wearing a helmet.” She said Sen. Edwards sees this as “a health concern.”
“He would like everyone to wear helmets during competitive sports activities so that they can be safe and so that there is equal playing field,” added Fifield. “He even wants adults to wear helmets so that they can be positive role models for our youth.”
The text of SB 741 could have unintended consequences because it remains to be seen how broadly “organized exhibition, competition or contest” would be applied. There is no clear definition of “organized” and given the myriad of bike events in Portland, it might be a good idea to further clarify what type of events would fall under this law. For instance, would a Sprockettes performance be considered an “organized exhibition”?
The bill to raise the mandatory helmet age from 16 to 18 years of age sprang from discussions of the competition bill. Sen. Edwards felt the age of 16 in the current helmet law is “an arbitrary age” and he wanted it to be more in line with other Oregon laws that define an “adult” as being 18 years of age and thus being, “capable of making responsible decisions and handling consequences.”
“Senator Edwards wishes that everyone would use helmets regardless of their age,” stated Fifield, “but he understands that is a decision every adult must make for themselves. SB 742 is a bill that would help protect our youth and would give parents the backing, which some appreciate, to enforce helmet use.”
The Bicycle Transportation Alliance opposes both of these bills, saying they feel education is the most effective way to increase helmet use. It’s also worth noting that a 16-year old can start driving a car in Oregon. One local activist wrote on Twitter this morning, “I support raising Oregon’s mandatory helmet age from 16 to 18 if we do the same for the minimum driving age.”
Nationally, of the 23 states that have a mandatory helmet law, 19 of them apply only to people 16 years of age or under and just three of them apply to ages 18 and under. (More info on state helmet laws here.)
On a sort of related note, on Tuesday Sen. Edwards voted yes on a bill (SB 238) that allows children under seven years of age to operate a motorcycle or ATV on public lands. That bill passed 22-7.
Stay tuned for updates on these bills and check the archives for all our 2013 legislative session coverage.
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So he’s concerned with health and safety. Lemme guess, he voted for the CRC?
I’m not real big on laziness. Few things we present to other riders are as lazy as a helmet. “Here, this hat will keep you from dying”. I’ve done it, too. If I’d been less lazy, I’d have taken the time to talk to some of those riders about how to ride safely instead of telling them to wear a hat. Instead, I handed over a piece of foam and many of those riders immediately went out and blew every red light on the wrong side of the street after dark with no lights. Helmets don’t change actions. Not that they don’t help if you actually hit your head on something, but that’s the last line of defense.
A bullet proof vest can save a person from dying at gunpoint, but it would make more sense to make shooting people illegal and enforce those kinds of laws. You know, I doubt I’d be allowed to own a handgun after using it to take a human life . . . Can you imagine a world where we tell a dying gunshot victim that they should’ve worn body armor?
Safety is a tricky concept, apparently. Last time I looked, the leading cause of death in teens was – and likely still is – driving. I read that around half of those deaths involve head injuries, too. The CRC will claim its share, and nobody will make teen drivers wear helmets.
I love how so many of us, as bike enthusiasts seem convinced that everybody who gets on a bike takes it as seriously as we do. It has to be where we get the delusion that a casual rider will be comfortable and not the least bit intimidated by requirement of headgear. As enthusiasts, we fail to see the difference between descending Burnside Road at 35mph+(high risk) and riding 4 blocks to a friend’s house on a bikeway with no traffic. It’d be cute, if it wasn’t so dangerous.
“Wear a helmet or just don’t ride”. Like we’re this smug little club that insists everybody be fearful and uncomfortable just like the rest of us. The ego behind that sentiment will be our undoing. We’re not better than everybody else. We sure as hell aren’t smarter. If we’re the jack**s I saw run the red full speed across Powell at rush hour in his shiny black helmet, we’re not any safer.
You know, I run faster than a lot of people ride their bikes. Never died once. I somehow survived my last trip to the tall end of a ladder, too. I do things every day that can cause deadly head injuries. I’m pretty sure there was a story on this very Blog not long ago of local cyclist Roger Mallette, who died of an apparent head injury. He wasn’t on his bike, but wearing a helmet to work in his office might have saved him.
I wear my helmet whenever I go for a ride. I choose to because it makes me feel safer. I’ve ruined a few. Can’t say I’ve ever ruined one outside of a bike race, though.
I see a lot of people riding bikes without helmets on the greenway outside my house. I sure am glad they’re not driving. Now, THAT would be dangerous.
I think proposing laws like this demonstrates a larger type of laziness in exercising authority. I have a theory (I’d love to see any behavioral studies done in this area) that those in charge of enforcement will tend to enforce rules more vigorously or more frequently against those who are generally perceived to be more compliant. Under this theory, when an “enforcer” is presented with two lawbreakers (minor infractions, not felonies), and can only apprehend one of them, the enforcer will choose to apprehend the one who they think will hassle them the least. Maybe it’s a bogus theory, but it seems to be what I’ve noticed in my own experience.
Likewise, considering laws like this one, instead of education programs, or disallowing helmet use/disuse from affecting judging decisions, is the lazy answer. Kids can’t put up much of a fight against it, and it would be easier to enforce than a judging rule at skateboard competitions. Education programs would be too expensive, and you just can’t empirically see the results of education programs–does that kid really have better judgment now? Who knows, but I can sure tell whether or not he’s wearing a helmet.
So because the alternatives would be too hard, let’s just make a mandatory helmet law. Besides–only a fool would ride a bike without one, right? It’s just common sense, right?
“…Few things we present to other riders are as lazy as a helmet. “Here, this hat will keep you from dying”. I’ve done it, too. If I’d been less lazy, I’d have taken the time to talk to some of those riders about how to ride safely instead of telling them to wear a hat. …” chainwhipped
If you’d been less lazy and really cared about them, you would have taken the time to also explain in simple terms to those riders, the realistic benefits, which aren’t insignificant…and limitations of bike helmet design in helping reduce injury. And, you would resist using the word ‘hat’, as you’ve done in your comment here, to dismissively associate bike helmets with headgear that isn’t capable of offering protection bike helmets can.
Information about bike helmet design, testing, and realistic limitations in the ability of bike helmets to protect their wearer is readily available: http://www.helmets.org/research.htm
I’d be curious to know whether Sen. Chris Edwards is familiar with the level of protection bike helmets can realistically provide to people wearing this safety headgear. And if so, how widely known amongst the public he thinks that information may be. I would think that information is important as part of considering whether changes to the age limit specs of an existing mandatory helmet law is called for.
Another politician who can’t use Google and learn that studies show that helmet laws make people less safe and decrease ridership. If a kid can drive a huge car and risk my life at 16, they can decide whether or not to wear a helmet. That, or we need to raise the driving age to 18.
Would the organized event thing apply to group and theme rides? What about parades? B.S. The skateboard anecdote sounds fake, to me, anyway.
I say vote out any politician who can’t do google research before introducing a bill. Vote ’em all out.
Are you also opposed to seatbelt laws? Also, can you provide a link to your “study” that states that people wearing helmets are less safe? I am fairly sure you are dead wrong on that one. Talk to your local trauma surgeon if you want some real world opinions. It boggles my mind that whenever helmet use is brought up here there are alot of people that seem offended.
Mike, helmet laws decrease ridership and decrease safety in numbers. Helmets make individuals safer, but the biking population less safe.
Here is even more evidence (cited in article) http://bicyclesafe.com/helmets.html and here is even more: http://www.sfcriticalmass.org/2009/12/13/do-helmet-laws-make-biking-less-safe/
So it’s not about the individual cyclist, it’s about the cycling “movement?” So if it hurts getting more people on bikes, it’s just not good policy? I guess you’ll be for helmets when cycling becomes a much larger share of the transportation market or hits some critical mass? I won’t hold my breath.
Cyclists are against helmets because they don’t look good. Can’t we just admit the vanity and move on.
And they are expensive and an extra hurdle. If you read my links you’ll see that when mandatory helmet laws are introduced ridership goes down and accidents go up. Look at the dutch, hardly anyone wears a helmet and they have very low crash rates. Why? Safety in numbers. More bikers = safer bikers. Helmet laws = fewer bikers = less safe bikers.
I don’t want to get too much into this, but safety in numbers is a bit simplistic – cycling has been integrated into every level of Dutch culture from the entire built environment (not just cycle paths that are more pervasive that roads for automobiles, but also ramps on stairs, huge parking garages, etc), to the law, which defends cyclists and pedestrians, to the education system, which teaches everyone how to behave on the roads no matter how they’re moving around. It’s a comprehensive system, and it’s very effective, as noted. The Dutch Cycling Federation recommends strongly against any mandatory helmet laws, because it distracts focus from actually solving the safety issues that would cause people to want to wear protective gear.
Cycling, even without a helmet, is a healthy activity. It improves overall health. Anything which discourages it, therefore, can be expected to have negative public health consequences. Since helmet laws clearly do discourage cycling, you have to weigh the public health benefits of helmet use against the public health costs of reduced cycling. Since the evidence on the former is quite mixed, and the evidence on the latter is clearly documented and reproducible, it’s clear that the weight of the evidence suggests that, from a public health perspective, mandatory helmet laws are not a good idea.
Also, cycling is no less safe than riding in a car. Should we require mandatory helmet use of motorists also?
Finally, note that the numbers used in this calculus are rather different for younger children; it seems that mandatory helmets for them are a good idea.
Since when does [not requiring helmets] equate to [banning use of helmets]?
When you say “So it’s not about the individual cyclist, it’s about the cycling ‘movement?'”, that’s what you imply.
Broaden your mind and understand that we can encourage cycling, and have cycling safety in numbers (which has be proven to lower pedestrian **and** motorist injury/death along with lowering cyclist injury/death, i.e., everybody wins). We can do this without the nanny state making requirements, since helmets won’t actually be banned. Smart people will use helmets when appropriate, and good parents will require their kids to do the same.
When you encourage laws to require helmets “for our own good”, sooner or later the government will have weigh stations for people at restaurants to identify the obese and send them to the “low calorie only” section. Why not? Diabetes and heart disease kills millions where cycling related head injury kills so few.
Uh oh, here we go….
Are you opposed to driving helmet laws? Lots of deaths from auto accidents are due to head trauma. When pedestrians die from getting hit by cars, oftentimes it is due to head trauma–pedestrian helmets?
Helmets can actually make cyclists less safe in two main ways:
Drivers who see a cyclist wearing a helmet have been shown to treat such cyclists with less care than one not wearing a helmet. The safest way to avoid head injuries is to avoid crashing, but when putting on a helmet makes drivers more likely to run into you, the safety improvement of wearing one is questionable.
Mandatory helmets can make cyclists as a group less safe because compulsory helmet-wearing discourages enough people from riding at all that cyclists remain–or even become–a rarity on the road that drivers are not routinely watching for. The safety-in-numbers principle is that when there are more cyclists on the road (helmets or not) everyone’s safety is improved because drivers are more aware of their presence.
No doubt that among the population of “people who crash their bikes” helmet-wearers likely fare better then non-helmet-wearers. But among the population of “people who ride bikes”, do mandatory helmet laws make people safer? Not such an obvious conclusion.
We have driver “helmet” laws. They’re called mandatory seatbelt laws. They protect the driver and passenger from ramming their head into the dashboard or getting the classic “glass necklace” through the windshield.
Even with seatbelts, head injuries are common in car crashes. You can’t tell me mandatory driving helmets wouldn’t make people safer. If it saves just one life, it’s worth it.
Why stop with helmets, lets make everyone regardless of what they are doing wear one of these, we’d all be safer… http://www.blackbeltshop.com/images/instructor-suit-300.jpg
Only if you wrap it in Nomex first, that thing could cause some serious injuries near an open flame.
Actually, seatbelts are one of the few safety devices that prevent wrecks. A properly belted driver is held behind the wheel where he can keep control of the car after the first emergency maneuver, properly belted passengers are held out of the driver’s way during emergency maneuvers. And even then a helmet will protect the driver and passengers, that’s why helmets are mandatory in all forms of motorsports, including driving around cones in a parking lot devoid of anything to run into.
I used to race in the SCCA.
I tell people they should wear helmets when walking, both in public spaces and private, if they insist on cyclist usage. I’m only partially kidding since a few study summaries place the rate of head injury as a cyclist so far down compared to rates for other activities. Let’s pass a law to require helmets for our helmets since the legislative efforts seem fixated on padding and protection rather than the action(s) leading up to injury.
…or we could just start enforcing all the vehicular laws that already exist and are supposed to prevent people in cars from harming other people…
Why doesn’t he just go after skateboarding competitions?
So it arose out of a case of sour grapes at a skateboarding competition??! “My mommy will tell on you to our senator!”
We already require helmets.
Could you clarify, Kenji? That could be taken to mean that OBRA supports mandatory helmet laws.
I took it to mean that this law is unnecessary because helmets are already required for competitions…
Honestly, I would assume that an insurance company that’s covering a contest or competition (bike or skateboard) would require contestants to use helmets, no?
“On a sort of related note, on Tuesday Sen. Edwards voted yes on a bill (SB 238) that allows children under seven years of age to operate a motorcycle or ATV on public lands. That bill passed 22-7.”
Wow, talk about hypocrisy…
…because 6-year-olds are mature enough to exercise good judgment in operating a motor vehicle safely…
Kenji, I was going to call you yesterday to confirm OBRA’s rules on helmets, thanks for posting. BTA’s action alert is here: http://btaoregon.org/2013/03/join-us-in-salem-on-march-25th/
I’m confused as to why we are looking at expanding a law that should be repealed.
They should raise the mandatory helmet and driving ages to 18, as part of the same bill. The frontal lobe isn’t fully developed until the early 20s.
They also need to either lower the drinking age to 18 or raise the enlistment age to 21.
But if adults have fully developed frontal lobes, why are they running people over with their cars?
Why launch a missle to kill a mouse? If the concern is over unfair adv in competitions then then pass a state law that judges of competitions may not consider helmet use in awarding points. No need to go any broader than that.
Why launch a missile to kill a mouse? If the concern is over unfair adv in competitions then then pass a state law that judges of competitions may not consider helmet use in awarding points. No need to go any broader than that.
Helmets prevent head trauma in the case of an accident. Accidents happen, not just because of cars (ice, street car tracks, flat tire, etc). You are more likely to get hurt on a bike that walking because you are going faster. IN the absence of public health care, public policies to prevent expensive emergency room visits and long-term health care, like helmets for motorcyclists, seatbelts, car seats and helmets for bicyclists are a great idea. This senator sounds like a COMPLETE tool (supporting CRC, letting 7 y.o’s drive ATV’s on public land, writing a bike helmet bill based on an experience at a skate competition), but I support mandatory helmet usage for up to 18.
I see where you are going: the faster you are going, the more likely you are to get a head injury that could be prevented by helmets.
Walking: you say no helmet (4,000 fatalaties/yr in US, unknown how many would be prevented by helmet use)
Bicycle: you say helmet (600 fatalaties/yr in US, unknown how many would be prevented by helmet use)
Car: helmet or no? (35,000 fatalaties/yr in US, unknown how many would be prevented by helmet use)
I can appreciate that, but cars are heavily regulated, insurance and driving license is required to operate one, and seatbelts are required (I am a huge supporter of slower speed limits, BTW). Your statistics do not reflect the number people in the US walking, biking and driving. But, I hear you: driving is a dangerous activity and should be treated as such. I support no driving license til 18, much better driver’s training, special license for driving large vehicles (motorhomes, Uhauls), much better and stricter enforcement and higher penalties for speeding, running stop lights, etc. I remain unconvinced that requiring people to wear helmets in cars or while walking is an apt analogy for requiring children to wear helmets on bikes. Also, I would change your paraphrase “the faster you are going, the more likely you are to get a head injury that could be prevented by helmets” to the faster you are going, the more protection will be required to prevent head injury”
one further refinement of your comparison would be to ask how many of those fatalities are the result of having encountered an automobile? I’d venture that for those not already in a car the number is fairly high. I think banning cars would do more, much much more, for general safety than giving everyone helmets.
Some people aren’t supposed to make it passed 18.
I’ve lost many people I love and I would not wish the pain of it on my worst enemy. However, the reality is that all people can’t be coddled into adulthood. Laws like this are ridiculous and only serve to drop some shiny coppers in the form of a ticket into the city vault.
Want to help american children? Let’s start with the hungry ones first and go from there. There are 16 million of them so it should be easier to find them than the few without a helmet
This nickel and dime crap doesn’t make me feel like a politician cares about me and mine one bit.
Color me not fooled.
Not even that, in most cases. Mostly they are enforced for people wearing the wrong color skin or otherwise deemed worthy of closer scrutiny. Or, of course, as an alibi to a driver who was otherwise at fault in a collision.
Your logic could be applied to statutory rape…
Helmets for anything going over 10 mph ! Cars, buses, trains, airplanes, fast running.
No Seriously. A lot of car accidents result in head injury of the occupents. Helmets should be mandatory. I know I wear a helmet when I am in an Automobile and make the kids and wife wear them also.
At 32000 deaths and over 2,000,000 injuries per year in motor vehicles in the USA, why wouldn’t you. Your number is coming up, wear a helmet –especially in your car !!
Prevent the injury: prevent the crash.
Prevent the Injury: Prevent the Crash.
Prevent the Injury: Prevent the CRASH!
Nobody will ever take away your helmet. Ever. Wear it all you like. It has not, cannot, and WILL NOT keep you or anybody else from being struck by a car.
A helmet softens a blow to the head. It does nothing else. Stop pretending that it keeps you safe from anything other than a blow to the head. I sincerely doubt that any former cyclist living with a permanent spinal injury because of a careless driver and s**tty infrastructure sits and thinks that their helmet “saved” them.
Prevent the Injury: Prevent the Crash.
Helmet LAW: Bad
Hey genius, not all cycling crashes are caused by a car. It’s amazing to me that an article about helmet laws somehow becomes anti car and accuse cars of causing all of the injuries to cyclists. If you land on your head after falling off your bike don’t you think having a brain bucket might be a good thing? Against mandatory helmets on minors? It’s called prevention.
An average of 600-700 cyclists die per year from motor vehicle wrecks, how many die from other causes? Provide links…
Well, (genius) he did say that helmets are good. They soften a blow to the head. That’s good.
He’s spot on that helmets do absolutely nothing else. If you have references to show how a helmet keeps spines intact and prevents a rib cage from being crushed, I’m very interested to see the info.
Maybe all the bike riders who die in helmets every year are just wearing them wrong. OR maybe they’re not merely crashing, but they’re actually being killed by people in cars.
Your life is worth a lot more than a helmet.
“…Sen. Edwards felt the age of 16 in the current helmet law is “an arbitrary age” and he wanted it to be more in line with other Oregon laws that define an “adult” as being 18 years of age and thus being, “capable of making responsible decisions and handling consequences.” …” maus/bikeportland
Interesting rationale from Sen. Edwards. Personally, I don’t think 16 is an arbitrary age at which to acknowledge the ability of people that are becoming adults, to make responsible decisions and handle consequences about their safety. 16 is the age we allow people to get a license to drive a motor vehicle.
It more or less logically follows that the same level of maturity in a person that leads us to feel they may be able to drive a motor vehicle safely, should allow us to also expect they’re mature enough to know when their riding situation calls for the use of a bike helmet. If its true that events organizers and judges are doing that sort of thing, Sen. Edwards ought to going after them.
People commenting before me have made a good point that sports competitions should not be awarding contestants for not using basic personal safety equipment.
Earlier in the week, I read a mention of SB 238, seeking to allow kids 7 and under to operate motorcycles on public land. Should also be noted that permission granted would be for a certain class of motorcycle/atv. I didn’t look into what vehicles are included in that class. I hope they’re only very low powered ones.
A-r-r-g-h-h! Sorry…big proof reading mistake:
“…If its true that events organizers and judges are doing that sort of thing, Sen. Edwards ought to going after them. …”, should follow:
“…People commenting before me have made a good point that sports competitions should not be awarding contestants for not using basic personal safety equipment. …”.
In Bend, at least, this whole discussion is absolutely meaningless. The local police do absolutely nothing to enforce the current kid’s bike helmet law. I have been at the scene of bike/car accident, when the cop lets the 12-year old ride away after the accident, without even a word of caution. The police have just made the group decision (for whatever reason) that they will not enforce this law. I estimate something around 50% of kids here do not wear helmets, but, then again, not many kids actually ride bikes here.
Depressing, isn’t it? In Bend, with all the concern for cycling safety, I always thought it was bizarre that nobody uses lights or teaches their kids to ride in bike lanes on the right side of the street.
Hardly makes a difference. The biking climate there is recreation heavy. Bikes are a toy of privilege in Bend. Commutership is very low.
I’ve had a bicycle helmet save my life. I will continue to choose to wear one.
I vehomently oppose mandatory helmet laws however unless they apply the speed of the mode of motion instead of the means: “All people on or occupying a vehicle capable of 20mph or more…” would be good language.
This would require motorists and car occupants to wear helmets, vastly reducing health care costs due to head injuries. Since, as we all know, motorists cause more head injuries than all other causes combined.
As far as I know. All cycling governing bodies have mandatory helmet requirements like obra. I know when I race USAC and Usabmx (even before they where USAC) events it was mandatory. So why overreach when it’s already taken care of.
A rather inflammatory feature picture to be included in this article.