California law requires the mandatory use of a helmet for any person 17 years of age or under who is riding upon a bike or bicycle on a public street or bikeway or path. Research on the subject has shown that all persons, even those over the age of 17 years, should seriously consider use of a helmet whenever riding a bike.
For instance, according to an October 2006 study conducted with the cooperation of the American College of Emergency Physicians:
“Helmets definitely need to be used as much as possible, said co-author David P. Sklar, M.D., chairman of emergency medicine at New Mexico, in an interview.”They do protect you when you fall off of a bicycle, but if you get hit by a car, a helmet probably is not going to be an adequate protection.”
They found that the overall death rate was 3.8 per one million person-years, with native Americans having the highest likelihood of a fatal accident (5.0). Men were nearly 10 times more likely than women to die in a bike crash (relative rate 9.8, 95% confidence interval, 4.5-21.2).
The highest death rates were among adults from ages 30 to 49 years (6.8), and children and adolescents ages 10 to 19 years (4.1).
City dwellers have a twice as high liklihood of being involved in a fatal bicycle accident as do persons living in rural areas, with a significant increase in the fatality rate for accidents which occurred at night.
The study concluded:
“The results suggest that we really need to look at different kinds of helmet protection, especially if people start using their bicycles more and more as transportation between home and work,” Dr. Sklar said. “As we look at the gas/oil crisis, with more people using their bicycles for transportation, we need to think about safer roadways for bicycles. Unfortunately, streets are pretty much designed for motor vehicles — they’re not designed for pedestrians, for bicyclists, for everybody together.”