Message from Bill Curnow
Australian Transport Safety Board
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) initiated and directed a meta-analysis of 16 observational studies which claimed that bicycle helmets prevent serious injury, including that to the brain, and death.
The meta-analysis appeared in Accident Analysis and Prevention (AA&P) in 2001(1). Since then, ATSB and other proponents of helmet laws have cited it. In 2003, the same journal published an article by Bill Curnow, an Australian critic of laws that compel the wearing of helmets. His article concludes that the meta-analysis does not provide scientific evidence that bicycle helmets reduce serious injury to the brain, and therefore death.
Another article by Curnow, published in AA&P in 2005(3), examines in detail the five main studies of the meta-analysis and comes to a similar conclusion. The debate continued in AA&P in 2006(4 to 7), between Hagel and Pless and Cummings et al on the one side, and Curnow on the other. ATSB did not enter into the debate to defend the claims of its meta-analysis, but continued to advise Australian ministers that bicycle helmets substantially reduce the risk of death or brain injury for cyclists. It is as if its claims have never been challenged."
1. Attewell R, Glase K, McFadden, M. 2001. Bicycle helmet efficacy: a meta-analysis. Accid. Anal. Prev. 33, 345-352.
2. Curnow WJ. The efficacy of bicycle helmets against brain injury. Accid. Anal. Prev. 2003; 37: 569-573.
3. Curnow WJ. The Cochrane Collaboration and bicycle helmets. Accid. Anal. Prev. 2005; 35: 287-292.
4. Hagel, BE., Pless, IB., A critical examination of arguments against bicycle helmet use and legislation. Accid. Anal. Prev. 2006; 38: (2) 277-278.
5. Curnow WJ. Bicycle helmets: lack of efficacy against brain injury. Accid. Anal. Prev. 2006; 38: 833-834.
6. Cummings, P., Rivara, F.P., Thompson, D.C., Thompson, R.S., 2006. Accid. Anal. Prev. 38, 636-643.
7. Curnow WJ. Bicycle helmets and brain injury. Accid. Anal. Prev. (in press after acceptance on 26.9.06 and published electronically on the journal's web site on 31.10.06).