Release date: April 21, 1999
Release number: 99-099

Release Details

As part of a national bike helmet safety campaign, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in partnership with the McDonald's Corp., today released survey results showing an increase in bike helmet usage from 18 percent in 1991 to 50 percent in 1998. The survey also shows that half of all bicyclists never or infrequently wear helmets when they ride, putting them at increased risk of serious head injuries.

"Bike-related crashes kill 900 people every year and send about 567,000 to hospital emergency rooms with injuries", said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown. "Wearing a bike helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent. It can save your life."

In 1991, CPSC conducted the first national survey of bike helmet usage. At that time, there were an estimated 66.9 million riders. Today, there are an estimated 80.6 million riders, 43 percent of whom never wear helmets and 7 percent of whom wear helmets less than half the time.

CPSC's bike helmet safety standard, state helmet laws, public education campaigns and better-fitting and better-looking helmets have all contributed to a climate that encourages helmet use. According to the new study, of bikers who now report wearing a helmet, 98 percent said they wore a helmet for safety reasons, 70 percent said they wore a helmet because a parent or spouse insisted on it and 44 percent said they did so because a law required it.

Bikers reported several reasons for not wearing a helmet, including riding only a short distance, forgetting to wear a helmet, feeling the helmet was uncomfortable or simply not having gotten around to buying a helmet.

The survey reports 69 percent of children under 16 wear a helmet on a regular basis while riding a bike, according to parents. The survey also found 38 percent of adult bike riders regularly wear their helmets.

To reach more riders, particularly parents and their children who still are not wearing bike helmets, CPSC and McDonald's are launching a national bike helmet safety campaign, "Get the Helmet Habit." Educating people on the risks associated with riding bikes, getting all bikers to wear a helmet every time they ride and educating them on the correct way to wear a helmet are the campaign's main goals.

"Safety will always be a top priority at McDonald's, which is why we're delighted to join CPSC in this national campaign," said McDonald's CEO Jack Greenberg. "Kids are very special to McDonald's, and we are using the power of our Happy Meals to get important safety information into the hands of millions of families."

The "Get the Helmet Habit" campaign kicks off with a press conference today in Washington, D.C., the release of the new survey results on bike helmet usage, and the broadcast of a video news release available to television stations across the country. Also today, a bike helmet safety website is being launched at www.bikehelmet.org. For one week, beginning April 23, every McDonald's Happy Meal sold will have a booklet attached, putting bike helmet safety information in the hands of more than 13 million people. Participating restaurants also will give away bike helmets at local events.

In May, a public service announcement, featuring Melissa Joan Hart of ABC's "Sabrina the Teenage Witch", will air on radio and television. Teachers of grades K through 3 will receive an in-school education program on bike helmet safety, created in collaboration with Scholastic Inc. Additionally, posters will be sent to 35,000 pediatricians for display in their waiting rooms.

For more information on bike helmet safety, visit the "Get the Helmet Habit" website at www.bikehelmet.org or call CPSC's hotline at (800) 638-2772. Copies of the survey are also available by calling the CPSC contact on this release.