Bicycle Helmets: Laws, Injury Prevention, and More
What Do You Need to Know About Wearing a Bike Helmet in Arizona? Our Bicycle Injury Lawyers Explain
Bicycle helmets and bicycle helmet laws save lives. They also prevent non-fatal traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in many cases. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), about one-third of all serious injuries from bicycle accidents are head injuries, and more than half of these cases involve riders who were not wearing a helmet.
Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that policies promoting consistent bike helmet use can reduce riders’ risk of suffering head injuries by 20 to 55 percent. This is a significant amount, and it underscores the importance of wearing a helmet every time you ride.
Bicycle Helmet Laws in Arizona
Bicycle helmet requirements vary between states and from one local jurisdiction to another. Here is an overview of the bicycle helmet laws and ordinances in Arizona:
Bicycle Helmets Are Not Required Under State Law
At the state level, wearing a bicycle helmet is not mandatory in Arizona. While Arizona has adopted several bicycle laws designed to promote rider safety, it has stopped short of requiring helmet use for riders.
But, Some Localities Require Bicycle Helmets for Minors
But, while the Arizona state legislature has not adopted a statewide bicycle helmet law, some counties have adopted bicycle helmet requirements. Currently, the following local jurisdictions require helmet use for riders who are under age 18:
- City of Sierra Vista
- City of Tucson
- Pima County
- Yuma County
These localities’ helmet requirements apply regardless of whether children are riding alone or with their parents. They may also require helmet use when children are riding in bike seats or trailers with their parents. For example, Pima County’s bicycle law states:
“No person under eighteen years of age shall ride a bicycle or be a passenger on a bicycle, ride in a restraining seat attached to a bicycle, or ride in a trailer towed by a bicycle unless that person is wearing a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet which meets the current standards of the American National Standards Institute for protective headgear.”
Most bicycle helmet manufacturers will state whether their helmets meet the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. If you aren’t sure whether a bike helmet meets the ANSI standards, you can check the manufacturer’s website, contact the manufacturer directly, or simply choose another helmet.
Choosing a Bicycle Helmet
Even if you are choosing a helmet for yourself or you live in a part of Arizona where children’s bike helmets aren’t required, it is still a good idea to choose a helmet that meets the ANSI standards. The ASTM International (ASTM) standards are frequently used as well; and, according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, the ANSI and ASTM standards for bicycle helmets are identical.
Along with meeting ANSI or ASTM standards, there are some other important considerations for choosing a bicycle helmet as well. Some of these considerations include:
- Sizing – A bicycle helmet should fit snugly on your (or your child’s) head, and should stay in place when turning the head from side to side. If a bike helmet is too small, it may not provide the full level of protection it is designed to provide. If a bike helmet is too big, it can come off in the event of an accident. The CDC advises, “make sure the bottom of the pad inside the front of the helmet is one or two finger widths above the bike rider’s eyebrows. The back of the helmet should not touch the top of the bike rider’s neck.”
- Comfort – Comfort is an important factor when choosing a bicycle helmet. If your (or your child’s) helmet is uncomfortable, it is less likely to get worn. With this in mind, it is a good idea to go shopping at your local bicycle store, if possible. If you order a helmet online, you won’t know how it feels until it shows up; and, if you have to return it, you might end up going to your local bike shop anyway.
- Style – There are many different styles of bicycle helmets, all of which are suited to different types of riding. It is important to choose a helmet that is designed for the type of riding you do. For example, while road cycling helmets are designed to protect against TBI while still being as light and aerodynamic as possible, mountain bike helmets often have face guards to protect against rocks and sticks as well.
Bicycle Helmet Maintenance and Replacement
Just like other types of safety equipment, bicycle helmets require proper maintenance. Abusing or failing to properly maintain a bicycle helmet can compromise its strength and integrity. With regard to helmet maintenance, the CDC advises:
- Check for damage before every ride. Cracks, discoloration, fraying, and loose foam are all signs that a bicycle helmet needs to be replaced.
- Clean bike helmets with a mild detergent (or according to the manufacturer’s recommendations). Avoid soaking helmets or using strong cleaners.
- Keep bicycle helmets out of the heat when not in use. Store them in a cool, dry place like a closet or garage. Car trunks can get hot in the Arizona sun, so storing a bicycle helmet in your trunk is not advised.
- Do not sit or lean on a bike helmet.
- Do not paint your helmet (or let your children paint their helmets) unless the manufacturer says this is okay. The chemicals in the paint could compromise the helmet’s effectiveness.
In terms of when to replace a bicycle helmet, the CDC advises following the “one impact” rule. As the CDC explains:
“Bike helmets are designed to help protect the rider’s brain and head from one serious impact . . . . You may not be able to see the damage to the foam, but the foam materials in the helmet will crush after an impact. That means that the foam in the helmet won’t be able to help protect the rider’s brain and head from another impact.”
While an impact can result from a bicycle accident, it can also result from dropping a helmet on the ground. If you have any reason to be concerned about whether a bicycle helmet is still safe to use, it is best to err on the side of caution and buy a replacement.
The Risks of Not Wearing a Bicycle Helmet
As shown by the statistics we highlighted above, the risks of not wearing a bicycle helmet can be substantial. Riders who aren’t wearing helmets are more likely to suffer head injuries, and TBI from bicycle accidents can have life-altering or life-threatening consequences.
Common Head Injuries in Bicycle Accidents
What types of head injuries can bicycle riders suffer if they aren’t wearing a helmet? Some of the most common head injuries sustained in bicycle accidents include:
- Concussions – Concussions are the most common type of TBI. While they are classified as “mild” head injuries, recent studies have found that concussions can have long-term effects in some cases. The risks are especially high when a concussion patient suffers a second impact during their recovery, and this makes it especially important to take time off from cycling after a serious collision.
- Contusions – A contusion is a bruise on the brain. Depending on their severity, contusions can have varying risks and require varying forms of treatment. The bruising is caused by bleeding within the brain; and, depending on where in the brain this bleeding occurs, it can potentially have catastrophic effects.
- Coup–Countrecoup Injuries – A coup-countrecoup injury occurs when the brain bounces off of the skull, resulting in a second impact on the opposite side. These injuries are typically more serious than concussions and contusions, as they result in damage to multiple parts of the brain.
- Diffuse Axonal Injuries (DAI) – Diffuse axonal injuries involve tearing of the connection between the cells in the brain. They most often result from violent shaking or rotation, as in the case of a rider rolling after falling off of his or her bike.
- Hematomas – A hematoma is a blood clot on the brain. These injuries are caused by ruptured blood vessels, which can result from significant impacts during bicycle accidents. Like contusions, hematomas can occur throughout the brain, and they can range from relatively mild to medical emergencies.
These are just examples. Bicycle accidents can result in all other types of traumatic brain injuries as well. If you or your child is experiencing headaches, blurred vision, trouble sleeping, or any other symptoms of a possible TBI, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
The Costs of Head Injuries from Bicycle Accidents
Regardless of the severity of a head injury, the costs of treatment and recovery can be substantial. Medical bills can far exceed families’ budgets, and riders’ loss of income can lead to further financial strain. In a typical case, a serious head injury sustained in a bicycle accident will lead to:
- Medical expenses
- Prescription costs
- Costs for medical supplies and other expenses
- Loss of income
- Pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life
Injured riders and their families can recover these costs in many cases. If you or your child has suffered a head injury in a bicycle accident in Arizona, you should speak with a lawyer about your legal rights.
FAQs: Bicycle Helmets and Bike Safety in Arizona
Do Bicycle Helmets Work?
The short answer is, “Yes.” Bicycle helmets do work. Studies have shown that wearing a bicycle helmet not only reduces the risk of suffering a head injury in a crash, but it also reduces the risk of a head injury having serious or life-threatening consequences. With that said, not all helmets are alike, and it is important to choose a quality helmet that is suited to your (or your child’s) specific needs.
Do Bicycle Helmets Prevent All Head Injuries?
No, bicycle helmets do not prevent all head injuries. As a result, while it is important to wear a helmet when riding, it is also important to stay alert and follow the rules of the road. Bicycle riders and parents should do everything they can to reduce their (and their children’s) risk of injury, and wearing a helmet is just one piece of the puzzle.
Does the Type of Bike Helmet Matter?
The type of bicycle helmet you choose is important. Simply put, some helmets are safer than others. Additionally, certain types of helmets are better-suited to certain types of riding. At a minimum, riders and parents should choose bicycle helmets that are ANSI or ASTM certified. Helmet manufacturers make helmets that are specifically designed for road riding, trail riding, and BMX riding as well.
How Do I Choose a Bicycle Helmet?
One of the best ways to choose a bicycle helmet is to visit your local bike shop. A pro will be able to give you advice on the type of helmet that is best-suited to your (or your child’s) needs. You can get advice about different certifications and styles, and you can make sure the helmet you choose fits correctly before you buy.
What if I Was Injured in a Bicycle Accident and I Wasn’t Wearing a Helmet?
If you were injured in a bicycle accident and you weren’t wearing a helmet, you may still be entitled to financial compensation under Arizona law. Bicycle helmets aren’t required in Arizona; and, while wearing a helmet is generally a good idea, there may be a variety of reasons why you ended up going riding without one. Even if the insurance companies can prove that wearing a helmet would have reduced the costs of your accident, Arizona law still allows you to seek partial compensation for your head injury.
Contact the Bicycle Injury Lawyers at Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm
If you have questions about Arizona’s bicycle helmet laws or need to know more about your legal rights after a bicycle accident in Arizona, we invite you to get in touch. To request a free consultation with a bicycle injury lawyer at Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm, please call 480-634-7480 or inquire online today.