SYDNEY, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- A review of mandatory bicycle helmet laws introduced in Australia between 1990 and 1992 has shown a reduction in fatalities of 46 percent.
The study is the first in the world to examine the effect of mandatory helmet laws on a national scale where the laws apply to all ages and are dutifully enforced.
"There was an immediate 46 percent reduction in the rate of cycling fatalities per 100,000 population following the introduction of bicycle helmet legislation in Australia," study lead author professor Jake Olivier from the University of New South Wales' School of Mathematics and Statistics said.
"This decline has been maintained since 1990 and we estimate 1,332 fewer cycling fatalities associated with the introduction of bicycle helmet legislation to date."
Previously, some who are in opposition to the laws have claimed that they deter people from cycling at all and have reduced fatality rates through a drop in overall numbers.
However, Emeritus Professor Raphael Grzebieta of the Transport and Road Safety Research Center said that numerous studies both within Australia and overseas have shown that assertion to be wrong.
"These advocates are no different to the climate change deniers and the anti-vaccination groups and belong in that same category of people that do not believe in scientific evidence," Grzebieta said.
The study's authors estimate that billions of dollars have been saved in medical costs since the laws came into effect which would be immediately reversed if they were repealed.
"If Australian helmet laws were repealed there would be a sudden uptake in the rate of serious head injuries and fatalities among cyclists involved in a crash," Grzebieta said.
"The subsequent increase in hospitalization costs would further exacerbate the already overwhelming demand for crash trauma treatment at hospitals and cause a significant increase in health costs."
The authors said while helmet laws are important, the associated debate has distracted from the crucial issue of a lack of cyclist friendly infrastructure in Australia which pales in comparison to many European countries.