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The History of Bike Helmets in Australia: Do they Save Lives?


Some Australians remember when mandatory bicycle helmets were first introduced in their state. Others have grown up with them and can’t remember a time when it wasn’t compulsory to wear one. To the second group, wearing a bicycle helmet might seem like a simple matter of common sense. But what does the research say? Do bicycle helmets save lives like conventional wisdom claims?

The Australian Road Rules are clear: “The rider of a bicycle must wear an approved bicycle helmet securely fitted and fastened on the rider's head, unless the rider is exempt from wearing a bicycle helmet under another law of this jurisdiction.” A passenger on the bicycle must also wear a helmet except under special circumstances.

Victoria was the first state to introduce mandatory helmet laws in 1990. This was followed by laws for adult cyclists in New South Wales and all ages in Tasmania in January 1991. In July of the same year, New South Wales extended the law to child cyclists. In the same month, South Australia and Queensland adopted the same laws but the latter state did not enforce them until 1993. The rest of Australia introduced mandatory helmet laws in 1992.

Bike Helmet Laws throughout Australia

Every state and territory in Australia is subject to bicycle helmet laws with some minor differences between states. For example: since March 1994 there has been an exception in the Northern Territory for adult cyclists (17 years and older) riding along cycle paths or footpaths. In Queensland, you don’t have to wear a helmet if one of your religious customs is wearing a headdress.

Wearing a helmet on a bike is compulsory for children too and Vic Roads has some suggestions about how you can help your children get used to wearing a helmet.

For more information about laws in your particular state, visit the following states:

Choosing the Right Helmet

When picking a bicycle helmet, make sure it fits comfortably yet firmly on your head and can’t be tilted in any direction. Ensure that there is no slack when you fasten the straps.

You also need to ensure that the helmet complies with accreditation standards from the Joint Accreditation of Australia and New Zealand: AS/NZS2063. If the helmet was manufactured after 2012, there should be a symbol indicating this.

The Benefits of Wearing Helmets

In 2016, a major study of bicycle helmets from around the world showed that they reduced the risk of a serious head injury by nearly 70%.

The same study found cyclists who wear helmets reduce their risk of dying from a head injury by 65% and that there is no correlation between helmet usage and neck injuries.

The research was put together by Australian statisticians Jake Olivier and Prudence Creighton and drew on data from more than 40 different studies and 64,000 cyclists worldwide. The findings were presented at Safety 2016, the world conference on injury prevention in Finland.

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If you’ve suffered a cycling accident, the injuries can impact your life forever. One way to get some sense of a normal life back is to make a claim for compensation. Shine Lawyers have cycling safety lawyers who work on a no win, no fee basis and can help you get your life back on track.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: March 29, 2019.

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