Background Incorrect bicycle helmet use increases head injury risk.
Objective To evaluate the patterns of incorrect helmet use based on unobtrusive field observations.
Methods Two observational surveys conducted in Alberta in 2000 and 2006 captured information on cyclist characteristics, including correct helmet use. Prevalence of correct helmet use was compared across multiple factors: age, gender, riding companionship, and environmental factors such as riding location, neighbourhood median family income, and region. Poisson regression analysis was used to relate predictor variables to the prevalence of incorrect helmet use, adjusting for clustering by site of observation.
Results Among helmeted cyclists (n=5862), 15.3% were wearing their helmet incorrectly or were using a non-bicycle helmet. Children (53%) and adults (51%) tended to wear their helmet too far back, while adolescents tended not have their straps fastened (48%). Incorrect helmet use declined approximately 50% over the study period for children and adolescents, but 76% (95% CI 68% to 82%) in adults. Children were 1.8 times more likely to use their helmets incorrectly in 2000 compared with adults, but this effect increased to 3.9 (95% CI 2.9 to 5.4) in 2006. Adolescents were more likely to use their helmets incorrectly in 2006 compared with adults (prevalence ratio 2.76; 95% CI 1.9 to 4.02). Children and adolescents cycling alone, compared with adults cycling alone, cycling at non-school sites and cycling in Edmonton, was associated with incorrect helmet use.
Conclusions Important factors not previously identified were associated with incorrect bicycle helmet use. This information can be used to target interventions to increase correct use.
- Bicycle helmet
- correct use
- injury prevention
- public health
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Funding This work was made possible by a Health Research Fund grant from the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR). BH holds the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation Professorship in Child Health and Wellness, funded through the support of an anonymous donor and the Canadian National Railway Company, as well as the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Population Health Investigator and Canadian Institutes of Health Research New Investigator Awards. BR is supported by the Government of Canada as a 21st Century Canada Research Chair.
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Office of Medical Bioethics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.