Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Does the absence of a helmet on a cyclist suggest they are drunk?

An article published yesterday stated that cyclists with no helmets more likely to ride drunk. As a keen cyclist, one of the many who obey our of traffic rules, I read this with interest.

The article itself blurs two points that anyone with common sense would not need research to believe:
  1. Wearing a helmet protects your head if you're unfortunate enough to fall off.
  2. People who break rules are likely to not just break one rule, but be more willing to break rules in general.
Whilst the research itself draws a number of conclusions based on statistical analysis of the data, the article reporting the research chooses a sensational and non-core finding from the research to suggest that "those cyclists without helmets are probably drunk and riding through red lights".

It is a shame to see a The Conversation's standard diminished by such sensationalist headlining of this article. The real finding of the research (completely ignored by the article) is that the current argument about helmets not being important on bike paths is false (based on their analysis).  Unfortunately the research doesn't address the question of whether this cost would be offset by the benefit of assumed increased participation rates that would come if people weren't forced to wear helmets.

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