More Junk Science from Toronto Activists

      An article published in the September 1, 2008 edition of the journal Pediatrics (abstract) claimed that a decrease in child cyclist fatalities may be attributable in part to helmet legislation and therefore, the authors conclude, Ontario's helmet law should be extended to adults!

      The only fact underpinning the finding is a decline in per capita child cyclist fatalities which occurred after Ontario's helmet law came into effect. The report fails to show a link between helmet use and cyclist deaths - a link that is essential to show that helmets save lives. The authors' conclusion is based on an assumption that helmet use increased. But evidence doesn't back that up.

      No province-wide helmet counts have been carried out in Ontario and Ontario's law was not enforced by police therefore nothing can be assumed about helmet use. According to counts carried out in the Borough of York, Toronto, Ontario, child helmet use was up for two years after the law was implemented in late 1995. The authors don't mention that helmet use returned to pre-law levels by 1999 (A K Macpherson, C Macarthur, T M To, M L Chipman, J G Wright, P C Parkin. Economic disparity in bicycle helmet use by children six years after the introduction of legislation. Injury Prevention 2006;12:231-235). Instead they chose to report that helmet use was up among one sub-group counted. They were silent on the fall among other groups. Another potential problem in using counts from York was that the borough was a virtual laboratory starting in 1989. From 1989 its children had been the target of a number of cycling programs. These included helmet promotion which no doubt had some effect on local child cycling habits. Because of this, York cannot be considered as typical of what was happening elsewhere in Ontario.

      Also ignored was Ontario's prevailing downward trend in general traffic fatalities - specifically Ontario's child pedestrian fatalities. (source: Ontario Road Safety Annual Reports). The principal assumption must be that cyclists also benefitted from this trend which is likely attributable to a progressively safer road environment.

      Since child pedestrian fatalities declined after the implementation date of bicycle helmet legislation, would the authors of this rubbish suggest that such legislation reduces pedestrian fatalities too?

      Post script
      (Since this news summary was prepared, a letter critical of the Wesson et al methods and findings has been published in the on-line version of Pediatrics. Author Malcolm Wardlaw demonstrates in detail why the reports conclusions are just not plausible.)

      The Vehicular Cyclist has previously exposed distortion and abuse of statistics by other helmet activists, more ...

      November 2008
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