A brain injury expert based at Southampton’s teaching hospitals has called for cycle helmets to be made compulsory.
Dr Andy Eynon, director of major trauma at Southampton General Hospital, said not wearing a helmet when riding should be seen in the same light as not wearing a seatbelt.
His call comes after British cycling hero and Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins sparked a debate by suggesting a change in the law on helmets may offer cyclists more legal protection if involved in an accident.
“Cycle helmets offer vital protection to the brain. You would not consider carrying your laptop outside without putting it inside a case. If every cyclist wore a helmet, the number killed or seriously injured each year would be greatly reduced,” said Dr Eynon, who advised on and advocated the introduction a compulsory cycle helmet law for under 18s in Jersey in 2010.
Every year around 19,000 cyclists are killed or injured in reported road accidents across the UK, with 40% of adults and 45% of children suffering head injuries.
“Many people who sustain serious head or spinal injuries are transferred to Southampton for emergency specialist treatment, so I see firsthand the effects such injuries have on patients and their families,” he explained.
“The vast majority of the patients here are not speeding motorcyclists – they are normal individuals who were doing normal day-to-day activities when they were injured, so it makes sense that we protect ourselves as best we can from the risk of sustaining a life-changing brain injury.”
With the cost of treating someone injured as a result of a cycle accident with no helmet running into thousands of pounds, Dr Eynon points out that prevention is a far cheaper solution than treatment.
“It costs society around £25,000 for an individual to be transferred to Southampton, operated on, treated in our intensive care unit and then cared for on our wards – and that is before taking into account rehabilitation costs and loss of income. A decent cycle helmet will cost less than £40.”
He added: “Actions such as not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle, not wearing a seatbelt, driving while using a mobile phone and even smoking in public are now seen as being socially irresponsible.
“It is time that not wearing a helmet while cycling is seen in the same light. Cycle helmets save lives and must be made compulsory."
Posted on Wednesday 15 August 2012