Study Finds Racial, Gender Disparities in Helmet Use Among Kids


Bike helmets are, for bike-wielding kids with only a rudimentary understanding of their own motor skills, a necessary form of public humiliation Even really sleek, Tron-looking bike helmets are humiliating (and uncomfortable) to strap on, and, for a kid with a bike, the first true act of childhood rebellion is ditching the helmet and riding free-skull through the neighborhood streets like Ghost Rider. That may not be the safest course of action, but, for a lot of kids, it’s the most liberating, badass thing they’ll do in their entire lives.

A new study comprehensively titled “Racial/Ethnic and Socioeconomic Disparities in the Use of Helmets in Children Involved in Bicycle Accidents” found that a mere 11 percent of kids treated for bike-related injuries in Los Angeles County (which has a helmet mandate) were wearing a helmet at the time of their accidents. Data for the study was gathered between 2006 and 2011, and the study included information about kids’ helmet use, age, gender, insurance status, and race/ethnicity.

The findings suggest, according to study author Veronica F. Sullins, that minority groups, older kids, and kids with lower socioeconomic status need to be educated more diligently about the importance of helmet safety:

There were 1,248 children involved in bicycle-related accidents in Los Angeles County. The median age of these children was 13; 64 percent were male. Overall, 11.3 percent of patients wore helmets, with some ethnic-based differences: 35.2 percent of white children wore helmets, compared to 7 percent of Asian children, 6 percent of black children, and 4 percent of Hispanic children. Researchers also observed differences based on insurance coverage, with 15.2 percent of children with private insurance coverage and 7.6 percent of children with public insurance wearing helmets at the time of injury. Children over age 12 were less likely to wear a helmet.

While it’s probably wise to make sure that more young kids from all backgrounds strap bulky helmets to their tiny skulls before testing out their newfound sense of balance on a wobbly bicycle, older kids (one of the main helmet eschewing groups) will probably forgo their bike helmets, regardless of class, race, or gender. After 12, wearing a helmet, while undoubtedly wise, can also seem undoubtedly dorky to the average kid not competing in a X-Game event. It can’t be helped — helmets make people seem too covetous of life, and helmet-free bike riding is an act of juvenile rebellion too simple and convenient to disappear.


Image via Getty, Sean Gallup

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