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Helmet laws and health
  1. Dorothy Robinson
  1. University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia
  1. Correspondence to:
 D Robinson.

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Editor's comment: This issue's Opinion/Dissent topic is a reproduction of a debate on helmet laws that appeared in Australian Doctor, 27 February 1998 in a section entitled Controversies in Medicine. The resolution debated was, “Laws enforcing helmet wearing for cyclists do more harm than good”. Australian Doctor has kindly given permission for us to reprint this debate in its entirety.

The opponents are well matched: Dorothy Robinson is a respected statistician whose criticisms of helmet laws have appeared in various publications. Carol Acton, a frequent reviewer for Injury Prevention, is an oral surgeon. I have locked horns with Robinson in an exchange of letters in the BMJ and think I won. But in fairness to our readers, I will let the debaters speak for themselves.

This article shows that bicycle helmet laws have done more harm than good. They have not produced any noticeable reduction in head injury rates. But, by discouraging cycling, have deprived many of healthy exercise and pollution-free transport, adding to the billions our sedentary lifestyle already costs.

Effective road safety initiatives are great news. The speed camera/anti-drink-driving campaign, introduced in Victoria about the same time as the bike helmet law saved the community $200 million in 1990 for just $5.5 million. Figure 1 shows the size of the drop in pedestrian fatalities.

However, …

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