Motorists get head start in drive for road safety
      Cap this .. the latest in protective headwear for motorists

      By ROBERT WAINWRIGHT, Transport Writer

      First it was motorbike riders, cyclists and skateboarders - now motorists and their passengers are being encouraged to wear helmets. The move comes in the wake of a new study which claims that headwear can dramatically reduce brain injuries in road accidents.

      A report by the Federal Office of Road Safety claims that "bicycle-style" helmets would be as effective as airbags and better than seat belts, reducing the severity of accidents by 50 per cent and saving the life of one in five head-injury victims. The report, released yesterday with the backing of the Department of Transport and Regional Development, even suggested that protective headbands could be designed as a fashion accessory.

      It presents findings from a two-year study on head and brain injuries conducted jointly by the accident research units at the University of Adelaide and Monash University, which said head injuries were costing the economy more than $1.5 billion a year. The universities concluded that helmets would provide more protection than safety options such as interior padding, side-impact airbags and advanced seat belt designs. Full helmet protection would lessen the severity of more than 60 per cent of brain injuries, compared with a bicycle-style helmet (50 per cent) and better interior vehicle padding (30 per cent).

      A spokesman for the Office of Road Safety said the idea was being put forward only as a voluntary measure, and there were no plans to make it compulsory. "Car occupants are already better protected than cyclists or motorcyclists," the spokesman said. "But this research shows that safety could be improved quite a lot by using simple, low-cost protection. We are publishing these results so that the community can make an informed choice." Professor Jack McLean, from the University of Adelaide, said studies of head injuries found that specially designed headbands could offer a practical alternative to full helmets. "The proposed headbands would apply padding to the front and sides of the head, where most impacts occur," Professor McLean said. "They would be lighter, cooler and less bulky than aconventional helmet."

      Ms Pam Leicester, a behavioural scientist from the NRMA's Road Safety Department, said the idea had merit, but it would not be easy to persuade motorists to wear helmets. The report, which concluded that a helmet would have avoided one in five fatal accidents, will be given to Australian helmet designers and manufacturers.

      "A detailed analysis of head impact patterns ... suggests that specifically designedheadbands could provide a practical alternative to full helmets," it says. "With someimaginative designing, the headband might well be developed as a new fashion accessory."

      Related article from New Zealand

October 1998
Return to: Home