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Is it really necessary for children to use cycle helmets Do they make a difference

01:00 Mon 25th Mar 2002 |

asks Sporty:
Yes, they do. In fact, official figures show that thousands of children are taken to hospital each year after cycle accidents on the roads, often with head injuries, and safety campaigners want to see cycle helmets being worn by all children all of the time.

Q. Where are cyclists most in danger - is it on roads
Roads don't appear to be the most dangerous places for cycling, even for children. Other research suggests that nine out of 10 injuries are caused by off-road cycling. That would bring the number of serious injuries on cycles close to 100,000, according to some estimates.

On roads, cycling is particularly dangerous for children at T-junctions and on roundabouts.

Q. Is cycling in the dark a problem
Cycling in the dark isn't particularly bad - 90% of accidents to child cyclists happen in daylight.

Q. What sort of injuries are the most common
Head injuries are common - and many could have been prevented if helmets had been worn, say safety campaigners.

One American study of cyclists arriving at hospital with head injuries found that only one out of 116 cyclists who had been wearing a helmet had a major head injury, compared to 37 out of 168 who were not wearing a helmet.

And the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth found that 70% of cyclists with head injuries hit the road head first. When doctors collected information on the impact sites on cyclists' heads, they found that a helmet would have protected half of all the impact sites.

Boys are more likely to have an accident: four out of five of all cycle accidents happen to male cyclists.

Q. How severe are the head injuries seen in hospitals
Doctors warn that, as well as broken bones, cycling accidents can lead to long-term brain damage. They emphasise that both parents and children have to realise how vital it is that cycle helmets are worn, no matter how far or where they are cycling.

Q. Does the age of the child make a difference
Yes. According to Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), a quarter of those killed and a third of those injured in cycling accidents are children. The figures actually get worse as children grow older and peak at age 16. After that they tail off sharply, probably because that's the age they are moving on to motorised vehicles.

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By Sheena Miller

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