2015 News

05 October 2015

Study Finds That Bicycle Helmets Most Effective in Low Speed Collisions

RSA Academic Lecture Marks First Day of Irish Road Safety Week A UCD Professor who conducted a study of cyclists with fatal head injuries has recommended that bicycle helmets are worn to protect against head injuries in the event of a collision, particularly at speeds of less than 50km/h.

The results of the study were presented at the annual Road Safety Authority (RSA) Academic Road Safety Lecture which took place in the Royal College of Physicians today (Monday 5 October). The lecture, which was chaired by RTÉ Broadcaster Bryan Dobson, marked the first day of ‘Irish Road Safety Week’ which runs until Sunday 11 October and focuses on three key areas – cycling safety, tyre safety and child safety.

The theme of today’s lecture was ‘Cycling Safety’ and featured a presentation from Professor Michael Gilchrist, Head of School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at University College Dublin (UCD) who presented the results of his study ‘Analysis and Reconstruction of Bicycle Accidents’ which was conducted as part of the RSA Academic Bursary Programme.

In his study, Prof Gilchrist and his team used data from 37 fatal collisions involving cyclists in Ireland over a 10 year period and staged computer reconstructions to determine whether a helmet would have offered protection. The study found that bicycle helmets offer effective protection at low speeds of less than 50km/h but their protective capabilities are reduced as speeds increase.

At the lecture, Mr Seamus Morris, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and Director of the National Spinal Injuries Unit (NSIU), presented his research into the impact and management of trauma on cyclists. From 2010 to 2014, the NSIU saw a 320% (from 5 in 2010 to 21 in 2014) increase in the number of cyclists presenting with spinal injuries with 30% of these patients having spinal cord injuries. Over that time a total of 53 cyclists required admission, of whom 21% had spinal cord injuries.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Paschal Donohoe TD welcomed delegates to the seminar, saying:

“Over the past few years, the number of cyclists on our roads has increased and so too has the number of cycling-related injuries and fatalities. Cyclists are among the most vulnerable road-users so it is vital that safety measures, such as a helmet and high vis clothing, are taken when out on the roads, as well as abiding by the Rules of the Road. I would also appeal to drivers to ensure they exercise caution and consideration when sharing the roads with cyclists. In particular, reduce your speed when you approach a cyclist as this could be the difference between life and death in the event of a collision.”

Last year, 13 cyclists were killed on Irish roads, more than double the number killed in 2013 (5). In-depth research conducted by the RSA on cycling injuries in 2012 found that there was a 59% increase in the number of cyclists injured on Irish roads in 2012 when compared to 2011. Almost half of cyclists injured in 2012 were injured at junctions, with T-junctions representing the most dangerous type of junction. The most dangerous manoeuvres taken by drivers include right turns, followed by left turns. These manoeuvres by drivers accounted for almost 4 in 10 injuries to cyclists in 2012.

The RSA is appealing to drivers to reduce their speed when sharing the roads with cyclists as it can determine the severity of an injury in the event of a collision, and to be extra vigilant at junctions and when turning. The Authority is also asking cyclists to be aware of their vulnerability when on the roads, particularly in built-up areas, and to take steps to protect themselves when cycling, including wearing the correct safety gear and complying with the Rules of the Road.

Ms Moyagh Murdock, Chief Executive of the Road Safety Authority said:

“Our research shows that cyclist injuries hit a ten-year high in 2012 when 630 cyclists were injured on Ireland’s roads. This represents a 59% increase compared to cyclist injuries in 2011. Over 80% of cyclist injuries happen in built up areas so cyclists need to be extra vigilant about their safety when cycling in cities or towns. Drivers need to respect that cyclists have less protection and therefore they should reduce their speeds accordingly and give cyclists plenty of room to perform manoeuvres. Cyclists also need to take responsibility for their safety by wearing a helmet and high vis clothing, and by behaving appropriately on the roads, in accordance with the Rules of the Road.”

Speaking at the lecture, Mr Seamus Morris, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and Director of the National Spinal Injuries Unit, Mater Hospital said that the first 24 hours after a collision is critical:

“Recent key evidence from the US notes that early surgery within 24 hours of injury is associated with a significant improvement in recovery. The logistics of getting a patient to the operating theatre in that time frame can be challenging with patients being referred from nationwide. An efficient referral network is key to achieving this goal as are a trained surgical team, full radiology support including 24 hour access to CT and MRI and 24hour access to the operating room.”

“’Irish Road Safety Week’ is an opportune time for us all to review our behaviour on the roads and to see what small changes could help to save lives and prevent serious injuries. We all need to view the road as a shared space and behave with the appropriate respect, consideration and caution for other road-users. ”

The 8th annual ‘Irish Road Safety Week’ is taking place nationwide this week. The RSA is urging people to get involved in this national drive to save lives and to play an important role in keeping Irish roads free from tragedy. To date this year, 121 people have been killed on Irish roads to promote the need to stay safe on the roads, 24 fewer than the same period last year. Among the activities taking place around the country this week are:

  • On Wednesday 7 October, the RSA and the Irish Tyre Industry Association (ITIA) will jointly run Tyre Safety Day where free tyre checks will be on offer to motorists in participating garages throughout the week. More information is on www.itia.ie  A copy of ‘Your Guide to Tyre Safety’ which includes information on buying second hand tyres can be downloaded from the RSA website.
  • On Friday 9 October, Beep Beep Day, which focuses on road safety for pre-schoolers, will be taking place in crèches and pre-schools around the country.
  • There will be free giveaways on the RSA’s Facebook and Twitter pages, including 3,000 bicycle lights!
  • The RSA Shuttle and Rollover will be visiting National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) campus on 5-7 Oct and University College Dublin (UCD) on 8 and 9 Oct, teaching communities and schools about road safety.
  • During Irish Road Safety Week, the RSA will be broadcasting its ‘Is Your Car Ready for Winter?’ radio ad to remind road-users to maintain their cars, especially in wet and windy weather.
  • Check it Fits, the RSA’s free child car seat checking service, will be visiting Donegal during Irish Road Safety Week to give free car seat checks and advice to parents and guardians. For more details on the locations please visit the Check it Fits section of our website.
  • The RSA ‘StreetSmart’ brings road safety to life in a fun way for young children aged between 4 and 12. Using a ‘streetscape’ map, children wander the street scene and learn more about important road safety skills. StreetSmart will be in Scoil Íde, Corbally, Limerick during Irish Road Safety Week.
  • In October, the RSA will also be distributing its ‘Back to School’ pack to secondary students, while Seatbelt Sheriff and Hi Glo Silver will be making an appearance at primary level.
  • Our National Road Safety Education Service will be travelling the length and breadth of the country, delivering road safety education programmes to crèches, schools, universities, workplaces and communities throughout the week. A full list of these activities is available on www.rsa.ie

For further information on ‘Irish Road Safety Week’ and the activities planned for your county, visit the RSA website at www.rsa.ie


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