PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Ninety percent of the bicyclists killed in the past two decades were not wearing a helmet.
No question, a bike helmet can be a real life-saver.
In fact, Chris Vitale, the manager for injury prevention at UPMC Children’s Hospital, says at least 85 percent of head injuries could be prevented just by wearing a helmet.
She says more children are wearing helmets these days than in the past, but about 70 percent of kids who come to Children’s Hospital with head injuries from a bike accident are still not wearing helmets.
So when it comes to helmets, are some better than others?
Consumer Reports recently conducted crash tests on two dozen helmets for kids and adults to see how well they protect you in an accident.
A sensor detected how much force would be transmitted to the rider’s head in a crash.
A second Consumer Reports test checked the strength of the chin strap.
One helmet, the Cannondale Teramo, did not pass, and may pose a safety risk because it could come off in an accident.
In four of the five samples tested, the buckle snapped or broke into pieces.
Sue Byrne, with Consumer Reports, says, “The company told us it stands behind its third-party independent test results, but we don’t recommend buying the Cannondale Teramo.”
However, Consumer Reports did find several good choices.
Top-rated is the Scott Arx Plus for $150.
Rich Handel, with Consumer Reports, says, “It scored excellent in impact resistance and fit adjustments. It was very good for ventilation and it’s also a lightweight helmet.”
Consumer Reports found several other helmets that cost less but offer just as much protection, including the Lazer Cyclone for $45 and the Schwinn Merge for just $12.
For kids, they found the Bontrager Solstice Youth for $40 performed best.
Vitale doesn’t recommend a specific brand, although she says you should never buy a used helmet.
She says the bigger issue for kids is just making sure the helmet fits and they’re wearing it correctly.
Vitale says, “It should be flat on top of the head just above the eyebrows. We always tell them make sure that it’s buckled with the strap at a ‘v’ right around their ear and buckled tight enough so that it’s not going to fall off. You open your mouth as wide as you can, you should feel the two straps pulling down against your cheeks. If that happens then it’s tight enough.”
Vitale also says if the shiny outer shell or the lining starts to crack, it’s time for a new helmet.
And she says anytime you crash and hit your helmet replace it, even if it looks fine because sometimes there’s damage on the inside that you can’t see.
Children’s Hospital has a bike helmet program where they provide free helmet fittings for kids.
They do about 6,000 a year.
For a list of the locations where they do local bike helmet fittings, visit: www.chp.edu/CHP/hard+head+helmet+fitting+schedule
Also, you can get more information on Consumer Reports bike helmet ratings here: www.consumerreports.org/cro/bike-helmets.htm