OBJECTIVES AND SETTING: To address helmet wearing by 13-17 year olds this study posed the following research questions: 'Do education programs continue to be necessary even after the community wearing rate has increased?' and 'Are helmet laws more effective in encouraging wearing among certain age groups?' Victoria was the first place in the world to introduce bicycle helmet legislation. Experiences in Victoria therefore provide a good model for the introduction of similar legislation in other areas. This study is the first to examine teenagers' attitudes towards helmet wearing after the introduction of compulsory helmet wearing legislation. METHODS: A survey of 1240 year 9 and year 10 students, aged 13-17 years, from 14 secondary schools in the outer south eastern suburbs of Melbourne, was conducted in September 1993. Information about bicycle use, helmet wearing, and attitudes towards helmets was obtained by a self report questionnaire. RESULTS: Bicycles are a popular form of wheeled recreation/self transport among teenagers. 65% of teenagers reported that they owned a helmet but only one third wore a helmet the last time they rode a bicycle. Fewer than 25% of students always wore a helmet when they rode a bicycle, despite compulsory helmet wearing legislation. Major factors leading to teenagers not wanting to wear a helmet were appearance and comfort. Both safety considerations and parental pressures were factors that influenced a teenager to wear a helmet. CONCLUSIONS: The major areas that need to be addressed are low helmet wearing rates; the low priority given to safety issues compared with comfort and peer acceptance; an ignorance of the need for helmets in all riding situations; and a perception that the legislation would not be enforced.
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