People who do not wear a helmet when riding a bicycle are 2.4 times more likely to be seriously injured in a traffic accident than people who wear a helmet, research at Taipei Medical University’s Health Policy and Care Research Center suggests.
Public bike sharing systems are becoming increasingly popular, with 10 cities or counties providing such services now, the center said.
However, along with the increasing number of riders, the number of cyclists involved in traffic accidents has also increased each year, it said.
Bicycle traffic accident reports have increased from 7,213 in 2005 to 14,874 in 2013, said Trauma Prevention and Disaster Medical Research Foundation chairman Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達), a former minister of health and welfare.
While 3.55 percent of deaths from traffic accidents in 2005 involved bicycles, the percentage increased to 6.74 percent in 2013, he said, adding that an average of about 260 to 300 people die in bicycle accidents each year.
Although most people ride bicycles at a relatively slow speed, the impact from being hit by a vehicle can still be strong enough to cause serious injuries, ranging from trauma, dizziness and nerve damage to physical disability, vegetative state or even death, Chiu said.
Wearing a helmet can protect the head from damage more than most people believe, he said.
About 20.7 percent of bikers who did not wear a helmet and were brought to a hospital after an accident were diagnosed with moderate to severe injuries, but only 2.3 percent of those who wore a helmet had moderate to severe injuries, said Kuo Chia-ying (郭家英), an assistant professor at the university’s Graduate Institute of Injury Prevention and Control.
When regulations were amended in 1997 to require all motorcyclists to wear a helmet, the number of reported injuries from motorcycle accidents dropped from more than 7,000 people to about 3,400 people a year, Chiu said.
Helmets can protect people and bikers should develop the habit of wearing helmets, Chu said.
People should choose bicycle helmets according to their head size, ensure they fit well and remember to tighten the helmets’ straps, he said.
They should also wear reflective vests and turn on their bike’s lights when riding at night, he said.
The regulations should be amended to require bicyclists to wear a helmet, Chu said.
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