The recent case of an uninsured cyclist who hit a pedestrian and who could be left with £100,000 out of pocket in legal fees and compensation has attracted much attention and has shocked many.
However, as the judge in this case said:
“Cyclist must be prepared at all times for people to behave in unexpected ways”.
Perhaps, this applies even more when a cyclist is riding along with other road users, i.e. motorists of all shapes and sizes and becomes the more vulnerable one. This has led to a re-emergence of the debate around whether cycling helmets should be made compulsory although the approach varies from country to country.
In the UK, you are not required to wear a cycling helmet, but it is highly recommended. There are some who say that wearing a helmet makes cyclists less risk aware and puts them at greater risk. The issue is hotly debated amongst cyclists and arises all the time in cases involving cycling accidents where helmets are not worn and more so where the accident resulted in an individual suffering a serious head injury which can have catastrophic effects.
A major study of the effects of using cycling helmets concluded that the use of helmets can reduce the risks of a serious head injury by nearly 70%. The study also found neck injuries are not associated with helmet use but cyclists who wear helmets reduce their chance of a fatal head injury by 65%.
Courts are increasingly making modest reductions in compensation to reflect the failure to wear a helmet where it is proved that the injuries would have been prevented or at least reduced by wearing a helmet. The arguments are similar to those relating to the use of seat belts although, in the past, judges have often refused to make deductions in cycling claims because, unlike with seat belts, the use of a helmet is not compulsory. This latest research may make reductions for failing to wear a helmet more likely.