The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted unanimously today to issue a new federal safety standard for bike helmets. The new standard will for the first time provide one uniform mandatory safety standard that all bike helmets must meet. About 900 people, including more than 200 children, are killed annually in bicycle-related incidents, and about 60 percent of these deaths involve a head injury. In addition, more than 500,000 people are treated annually in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries. Research indicates that a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent.
Beginning February 1999, all bike helmets manufactured or imported for sale in the United States will have to meet the new federal safety standard set by CPSC. The new standard ensures that bike helmets will adequately protect the head and that chin straps will be strong enough to prevent the helmet from coming off in a crash, collision or fall. In addition,the new standard requires that helmets intended for children up to age five cover more of the head to provide added protection to the more fragile areas of a young child's skull.
Helmets meeting the new standard will carry a label stating that they meet CPSC's new safety standard. This will help eliminate confusion among consumers about which certification mark to look for when buying a helmet. Previously, helmets met various voluntary standards and were certified by a number of standard development groups. In 1994, Congress directed CPSC to develop a mandatory safety standard for bike helmets to replace these voluntary standards.
"Because of this new standard, families will know that the bike helmets they buy meet stringent federal requirements aimed at preventing head injuries," said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown. "But there is no safety rule more important than making sure you wear a helmet every time you ride a bike. It's the single most critical thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash."
CPSC offers the following tips on how to correctly wear a helmet:
- Wear the helmet flat atop your head, not tilted back at an angle.
- Make sure the helmet fits snugly and does not obstruct your field of vision.
- Make sure the chin strap fits securely and that the buckle stays fastened.
Consumers can also view a video clip about this new standard and how to wear bike helmets properly (Transcript). This is in "streaming video" format.
CPSC Commissioners' statements are provided below.
Statement of the Honorable Ann Brown
Chairman, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Regarding Commission Vote on Bike Helmet Rule
February 5, 1998
Every time the Commission does a project so important, I come back to the very mission of this agency: to protect consumers against death and injury from consumer products. I voted for a final Federal safety standard for bicycle helmets because I believe a new and improved safety standard helps accomplish this mission.
Last year, over 900 people were killed in on bicycles, and more than a half million people were treated in hospital emergency rooms. Sixty percent of all bicycle-related deaths involve head injuries. Yet, research shows that helmets can reduce the risk of these deaths and injuries by as much as 85 percent.
This is the first ever Federal mandated bike helmet safety standard. It will reassure consumers that every bike helmet for sale in every store will provide the same excellent head protection for bicyclists. Just as important, the new standard will reduce the confusion of consumers confronted by an alphabet soup of standards and standards labeling.
Because of this new standard, families will know that the helmets they buy meet stringent Federal requirements aimed at preventing head injuries. The new standard includes two important new provisions that will help provide greater protection for bicyclists -- especially children: additional head coverage for children up to age five to protect the child's brain and skull; and chin strap stability to prevent the helmet from coming off in a crash.
Assuring consumers of a superior helmet is only half the battle. Research shows that only 18 percent of all bicycle riders in the U.S. wear bike helmets all or most of the time. CPSC has already taken steps to urge all bicyclists to wear helmets, but much more must be done.
There is no safety rule more important than making sure you wear a helmet every time you ride a bike. It is the one important action you can take to protect yourself in a crash. Most important, children should wear a helmet every time they go for a ride -- even in the neighborhood.
Today's unanimous vote is a victory for consumers and a testament to common-sense government.
Statement of Commissioner Thomas H. Moore
Final Rule: Safety Standard For Bicycle Helmets
February 5, 1998
Today, along with my colleagues, I have voted to issue a new federal mandatory standard for bicycle helmets. I am enthusiastic about this new standard because, among other benefits, it will encourage uniformity and simplicity in the marketplace for both consumers and industry. Of greater importance is our response, at least in part, to data showing that very young bike riders incur a higher proportion of head injuries: the new standard will require that future bicycle helmets provide additional head protection for children under the age of five years.
Our staff should be congratulated for the strong and consistent effort reflected throughout the process that has resulted in this final rule. That process also included serious input from a wide range of outside interest groups consisting of manufacturers, consumers groups, testing and research laboratories, and medical care professionals. Working together with our staff, this collection of interested and knowledgeable parties provided an invaluable substantive input. The result is this comprehensive and thoroughly reviewed single-standard helmet safety approach to reducing a bicycle rider's risk of injury.
We have taken an important step today toward a potential for further reducing the risk of head injury to bicyclists, especially young cyclists. However this step,of itself, is not likely to lead to the substantial reduction in injuries that we seek. Research shows that only about 18 percent of all bicyclists wear a helmet all or most of the time. There must be a wider use of bicycle helmets!
All of us involved in this process, from the Congress, to the States, to grassroots consumer interest groups, must now commit ourselves to encouraging an increased use of approved bicycle helmets. No one can dispute that the best designed helmet is of little utility unless it finds its way onto the heads of more bicyclists. That is the end we must all now pursue.
Statement of the Honorable Mary Sheila Gall
on Approval of Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Standards
February 5, 1998
Bicycle helmets save the lives of and prevent serious head injuries to the riders who wear them. The voluntary bicycle helmet standards developed by the industry have done a good job protecting riders for many years. Today's action is necessary to carry out the statutory mandate to promulgate mandatory standards for bicycle helmets.
The work of the Commission staff, industry and other interested parties has led to a unified helmet standard, providing better protection. Parents, and adults in general, must set an example to children by wearing helmets, and by insisting that children not ride without helmets. Only then will we see a reduction in the number of head injuries and deaths from bicycle riding.
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