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Bicycle Helmets and Traumatic Brain Injury: A Small Price to Pay For Your Safety

By Matt Lalande in Bicycle Accidents on June 01, 2021

Bicycle Helmets and Traumatic Brain Injury: A Small Price to Pay For Your Safety

The health benefits of physical activity, particularly cycling, are widely recognized throughout Ontario. But, while the benefits of cycling must be acknowledged, so must the dangers. There’s no doubt that cyclists are vulnerable in the event of a bicycle accident, particularly to head injury and brain trauma.

Wearing a bicycle helmet can drastically reduce the risk of a traumatic brain injury when worn properly. As a Hamilton bicycle accident lawyer who represents catastrophically injured cyclists, Matt Lalande knows firsthand that head and neck injuries are always devastating for victims and their loved ones. Riding to survive is much more important than anything else.

Bicycle Helmet Faqs

  1. How long have bicycle helmets been around?

    Bicycle helmets have been around since 1980.

  2. Do helmets protect against head injury?

    Yes, head injuries are among the most severe injuries sustained while bicycling, justifying the implementation of bicycle helmet legislation by many provinces, including Ontario.

  3. Do helmets reduced the chance of brain injury?

    Yes, helmets studies over the past 40 years show that helmets are estimated to reduce the risk of head and brain injuries by 65% to 69% and severe brain injuries by 70% to 74%.

  4. Is bicycling a safe mode of transportation?

    Cycling is a relatively safe mode of transportation compared with other modes of transportation and the health benefits of cycling are substantially higher than the risks associated with cycling.

  5. What is the most common bicycle accident injury?

    Head injuries rank among the most severe injuries in bicyclists, representing 20% to 40% of all bicycling injuries encountered in Canadian emergency departments. In addition, recent studies have shown that head injuries account for 45% to 100% of child and youth bicycling deaths

  6. What are the most common causes of bicycle accident?

    Some of the most common causes of bicycle accidents are:

    1. Distracted drivers
    2. A vehicle turning right, while looking left
    3. A vehicle truning left, while looking right
    4. The “right hook” accident – a driver turns to the right, in front a cyclist who is travelling beside the car
    5. Dooring
    6. When a car turns left in front of an approaching cyclist
    7. Running a stop sign
    8. Unsafe lane changes
    9. Failing to yield
    10. impaired driving

  7. What are the most common bicycle accident injuries?

    1. Tibial plateau fractures
    2. Knee Fractures
    3. Femoral Fractures
    4. Hip injuries
    5. Hip fractures
    6. Head Injuries
    7. Brain Injuries

Bicycle Accident & Helmets – Head Injury Statistics

It’s important to note that wearing a bicycle helmet does not reduce your risk of experiencing a bicycle accident, but in the unfortunate event that this does happen, a helmet can help to prevent a serious and potentially fatal traumatic brain injury. 

According to Statistics Canada, in the decade between 2006 and 2017, 73% of fatal bicycle accidents were caused by a collision with a motor vehicle, and only 13% of cyclists who were killed were wearing a helmet. 

A properly fitted helmet adds an extra layer of protection for the brain and the skull during an impact. In 2017, the International Journal of Epidemiology analyzed 40 separate studies on bicycle accident injuries and found that bicycle helmet use significantly reduced the risk of head injuries, brain injuries, facial injuries, and fatal head injuries by up to 88%. 

Helmets also offer a few other added benefits: they can help add visibility so drivers are more likely to see you, they offer protection from the weather, and they can help reduce sunburns on the scalp.

Is it Illegal to Ride a Bicycle Without a Helmet in Ontario?

Under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, anyone riding a bicycle under the age of eighteen is legally required to wear a helmet, and parents are obligated to ensure that their children ages sixteen and under are wearing a helmet.

While it isn’t illegal to ride a bike without a helmet as an adult, it is highly recommended that cyclists of any age wear one at all times. You never know when someone else is going to make a costly mistake, and even if you are only going around the corner, it just takes one second for an accident to occur.

Adults are just as vulnerable to traumatic brain injury as children and teenagers are; even in 2020, when less cars were on the road due to the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic reports saw that bicycle and pedestrian fatalities across Canada’s major cities remained consistent with previous years. This indicates that the risk of bicycle accident fatalities and serious injuries is never zero, even with a decrease in traffic.

Traumatic Brain Injuries Come With Devastating, Permanent Consequences

The Canadian Pediatric Society reports that up to 40% of injuries sustained in bicycle accidents are head injuries, and head injuries account for between 46% and 100% of bicycling deaths in children and adolescents.

Even if you are able to get up after being struck by a car, you are not always in the clear for head and brain injuries. It can sometimes take a few days or even weeks for symptoms to begin. For this reason, it’s important to seek medical attention if you’ve experienced a bicycle accident, even if you think it was minor and you don’t feel any immediate injuries.

There are many different types of traumatic brain injuries, and as the brain is the body’s communications hub, the effects can be lifelong and impact physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. A catastrophic brain injury from a bicycle accident (or any other type of accident) can cause any or all of the following permanent, long-term consequences:

  • Loss of consciousness or a prolonged vegetative state
  • Memory loss 
  • Balance impairment 
  • Mobility issues
  • Paralysis 
  • Chronic migraines 
  • Sensory impairment, such as loss of taste, vision, or smell 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Behavioural changes such as mood swings and irritability 
  • Chronic fatigue 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Depression and/or anxiety 
  • Difficulty communicating 
  • Sensitivity to light and noise 
  • Lack of impulse control 
  • Vertigo 
  • Epilepsy or seizure disorders
  • Increased vulnerability to other dangerous health conditions such as stroke

These symptoms can have detrimental effects on every aspect of a victim’s life, from their ability to work to their relationships, family dynamic, independence, mental health, and overall enjoyment of life.

A Properly Fitted Bicycle Helmet is Key

Bicycle helmets are required to be manufactured to meet a set of safety standards. In Canada, helmets must be certified by one of the following organizations: the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the American National Standard Institute (ANSI), or the Snell Memorial Foundation. Every helmet will have a sticker on the inside with an official certification confirming it conforms to safety regulations.

In order to effectively reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury, a bicycle helmet must be properly fitted to the rider’s head. If a helmet is too loose or large for the rider’s head, it could slip out of place during a fall or impact or impact the rider’s ability to see. The helmet should be able to sit level on the rider’s head, with at least two finger widths between the rider’s eyebrow and the edge of the helmet.

Chin straps should be snug enough that no more than two fingers can fit inside the strap. To perform a final “tightness test,” open your mouth in a yawn formation and feel for the helmet to pull. If the helmet doesn’t have any pull when you do this, or if it slides in any direction, it’s too loose and the straps need to be tightened.

Bicycle helmets have an expiry date and should be replaced every three years to ensure peak safety levels. The older a helmet is, the more likely it will shatter during an impact and the protective foam can become fragile or brittle. At any point, if a bicycle helmet has been involved in a crash, even if that crash did not result in the helmet breaking or cracking, the helmet should be replaced immediately. 

Types of Bicycle Accidents in Ontario

A bicycle helmet reduces the risk of traumatic brain injury, but it’s important to remember that wearing a helmet is not a substitute for proper road safety. It is an added layer of protection in the event of an accident, but bicycle riders should always be on the lookout for hazards and follow road safety rules at all times. Likewise, motor vehicle drivers should always exercise caution when sharing the road with cyclists and scan for cyclists when driving on city roads.

Common types of bicycle accidents we see that can cause severe head injuries include:

The risk of a head, brain, or neck injury while riding a bicycle is still present even when motor vehicles are not in the vicinity. A simple crack in the road, a sudden tire puncture, an equipment failure, or even overestimating a turn could also lead to an accident and serious injury.

Not Wearing a Helmet Can Impact your Personal Injury Claim

There are multiple reasons to wear a bicycle helmet for safety reasons. However, failure to wear a bicycle helmet could not only increase your risk of a traumatic brain injury, but it could also negatively impact a future personal injury claim.

Under Ontario personal injury law, in order to hold a negligent party accountable and seek damages for your injuries, you must prove that the at-fault party was directly responsible for the accident that caused your injuries. This is known as causation, and is a key element in a successful claim. 

If you were in a bicycle accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury but you were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, a defendant might use what is known in Ontario as the “helmet defence” to argue that you are partially liable for your own injuries due to contributory negligence. This does not mean that you won’t win your case, but it could mean that you may not receive the maximum settlement amount you intend to claim.

If You, Your Child, or a Loved One Has Been Severely Injured in a Bicycle Accident in Ontario, Contact a Hamilton Bicycle Accident Lawyer Today 

Matt Lalande has worked with many bicycle accident victims across Ontario since 2003, holding negligent parties accountable for their actions and recovering financial damages for those who need it most. We know how frustrating, stressful, and emotionally challenging this time can be for you and your family, and are dedicated to ensuring you have the support and representation you need to recover without worrying about how you’ll pay the bills. 

While it is true that our goal as your Hamilton bicycle accident lawyers is to maximize your compensation following a cycling accident, your health and physical recovery are more important. Our bicycle accident lawyers rely on our extended network of physicians, occupational therapists, rehab providers, pain specialists and and other professionals and specialists to assist in your bicycle accident case. We also work with accident reconstruction and engineers to ensure to establish liability and damages in your bicycle accident case.

Tell us about your case in a free consultation. All consultations are completely free and confidential, with no upfront charges and is without any obligation to retain our firm if you change your mind or decide to seek alternative options. We work on a contingency basis, and don’t charge you a penny until you win your case, so there is no risk to you in talking to us.

Book your free consultation using our online contact form, or call us no matter where you are in Ontario at 1-844-LALANDE or local in the GTA/Hamilton/Niagara area at 905-333-8888 and we would be more than happy to discuss your situation and provide the best legal advice we can.

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1 King Street East, Suite 1705
Hamilton, On L8P 1A4
Local: 905-333-8888
Toll Free: 1-844-LALANDE



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