BLACKSBURG, Va. — Bicycle helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injuries in cycling, but, until now, consumers who want to buy one that offers the best protection have had little information to go on. A new ra tings program, based on collaborative research by Virginia Tech and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, fixes that.
The first 30 helmets to be tested — all popular adult-size models — show a range of performance, with four earning the highest rating of 5 stars, two earning 2 stars, and the rest in the 3-4-star range. Cost wasn’t a good predictor of performance. Both the $200 Bontrager Ballista MIPS and the $75 Specialized Chamonix MIPS earn 5 stars.
“Our goal with these ratings is to give cyclists a n evidence-based tool for making informed decisions about how to reduce their risk of injury,” says Steve Rowson, director of the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab and an associate professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics. “We also hope manufacturers will use the information to make improvements.”
While the government requires that helmets pass a series of tests to be sold in the U.S., the new ratings rely on a more realistic evaluation based on joint Virginia Tech and IIHS research.
“As more people choose the bicycle as a mode of transportation, better helmet design is one of the tools that can be used to address the increasing number of cycling injuries,” says David Zuby, chief research officer at IIHS and a frequent bike commuter.
A total of 835 bicyclist s were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2016. That is the highest number of bicyclist deaths since 1991.
More than half of those killed in 2016 weren’t wearing helmets. Helmet use has been estimated to reduce the odds of a head injury by 50 percent.
The bike helmet rating system developed by Rowson and his colleagues builds on their years of experience evaluating other types of sports head protection. The Virginia Tech Helmet Lab currently rates football and hockey helmets, as well as soccer headgear. [click to continue…]