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Rates of, and the factors affecting, cycle helmet use among secondary schoolchildren in East Sussex and Kent


Objectives—To assess the level of cycle helmet wearing among young people in two counties in the South East of England in 1994, and to identify the factors associated with helmet wearing.

Design—Cross sectional survey in a convenience sample.

Setting—Secondary schools in East Sussex and Kent.

Subjects—Students in year 7 (aged 10–12 years) and year 11 (aged 14–16 years).

Main outcome measures—Self reported “always wears a helmet”.

Results—Among those who ride a bicycle, 32% of boys and 29% of girls aged 10–12 years, and 14% of boys and 10% of girls aged 14–16, reported that they always wear helmets. The variables that were most consistently associated with helmet wearing (that is significantly associated with helmet wearing in at least five of the six age, sex, and county subgroups) were: “parental encouragement to wear a helmet”, “closest friend wears a helmet”, “belief that laws that make children wear helmets are good”, and “sometimes rides off-road”.

Conclusions—The self reported rates of always wearing a cycle helmet in East Sussex and Kent are consistent with overseas findings for populations who had not been exposed to intensive helmet promotion. The evidence suggests that parental encouragement has a favourable effect on rates of cycle helmet use among secondary schoolchildren, which is separate from and additional to peer influences. When designing a helmet promotion programme, therefore, it will have added impact if both parents and children are addressed.

  • bicycles
  • helmets
  • wearing rates

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