The potential for cycle helmets to prevent injury – a review of the evidence

  • Published: TRL report PPR446, 2009
  • Authors: D. Hynd, R. Cuerden, S. Reid, S. Adams
  • Date Added: 27 Jun 2013
  • Last Update: 25 Oct 2016
  • Format: html


This report focuses on understanding whether cycle helmets reduce the frequency and severity of injury in the event of a collision. It does not include detailed consideration of whether wearing or not wearing a helmet influences the likelihood of being involved in an accident, either through behaviour in the rider or in other road users.


This research report was commissioned to provide a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of cycle helmets in the event of an on-road accident, building on previous work undertaken for the Department for Transport. The objectives were to evaluate the effectiveness of cycle helmets from several perspectives:

  • Review of cycle helmet testing and standards

  • A biomechanical assessment of the potential limitations to helmet effectiveness

  • A literature review of helmet effectiveness from real world studies

  • An in-depth accident data investigation to identify the potential for cycle helmets to prevent injury

Key Findings:

  • In 2008, 115 pedal cyclists were killed and 2,450 reported as seriously injured onBritain’s roads, accounting for 9 per cent of all killed or seriously injured (KSI) road casualties (DfT 2009). Approximately 40 per cent of pedal cyclists admitted to hospital in England suffer head injuries. Cycle helmets are designed to reduce head injuries by absorbing the energy during a head impact and distributing the load. This is intended to reduce the risk of scalp laceration, cranium fracture, and severe brain injury.

  • Cycle helmet wearing rates have increased steadily since 1994 for most cyclist groups and in 2008 they were 34 per cent on major roads and 17 per cent on minor roads, up from 22 per cent on major roads and from 8 per cent on minor roads in 1999.