Bicycle Helmets

Frequency of Wearing Bicycle Helmets

Among those who rode a bicycle in the past 30 days, half (50%) said they never wear helmets or did not have access to a helmet. About one-third (35%) reported that they wear a helmet for all (24%), or nearly all or most (11%), of their rides. Male and female bicyclists were about equally likely to wear a helmet.

Propensity to wear a helmet for all rides increased after the teenage and young adult years, with just 13 percent of bicyclists 16 to 20 and 21 percent of bicyclists 21 to 29 reporting that they always wear a helmet. This is compared to nearly 30 percent of bicyclists 30 or older. Nearly 6 in 10 (57%) of 16- to 20-year-old bicyclists said they never wear helmets or do not have access to one.

Asian bicyclists were most likely among all races (33%) to wear helmets for all of their rides. Hispanic bicyclists were most likely to never wear a bike helmet (59%).

Usage of a helmet for all bicycle rides tended to increase as household income increased. Three in 10 of the highest income bicyclists (31%) wear helmets for all rides, compared to 16 percent of those earning under $15’000. Conversely, 59 percent of those earning less than $15’000 said they never wear helmets or do not have access to one, compared to 44 percent of those earning $75’000 or more per year.

Reasons for Not Wearing a Helmet

Bicyclists who did not wear a helmet for all of their rides were asked whether a list of specific reasons for not wearing helmets applied to them. They could choose as many reasons they felt applied to them. The top reasons for not wearing helmets were that the bicyclist does not have one (50%), that it is too hot in the summer months to wear a helmet (47%), that helmets are uncomfortable (45%), or that they do not wear helmets for short bicycling trips (42%). Fewer agreed that their reason for not wearing helmets was because they do not like the way they look in helmets (27%), that they forgot to wear them (26%), that helmets do not provide much protection (22%), that they obstruct vision (12%), or that they are too expensive (12%).

Support for helmet laws

Nearly 8 in 10 Hispanics 16 and older (79%) supported laws that require adults to wear bicycle helmets. In contrast, 59 percent of White, non-Hispanics supported helmet laws for adults.

Support for helmet laws did not differ according to whether children 5 to 15 are present in the household.

Bicyclists (88%) were similar to nonbicyclists (91%) in level of support for bicycle helmet laws for children. However, bicyclists were less supportive of adult helmet laws (49%) than were nonbicyclists (67%).

These results are from the 2008 National Survey of Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behavior (PDF) by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), released August 2008, based on 2002 data. The survey was performed by The Gallup Organization