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Queensland helmet law

Introduction and scope

The Queensland helmet law came into effect on 1st July 1991. It applies to all ages.

The fine for infringement of the law was originally AUD35, but is now AUD75 - 50% greater than the penalty for any other traffic law violation by a cyclist. For children 10 - 16 years, a fine is imposed on a third violation, after a caution and then a warning. (QuTrans)

Compliance and enforcement

For the first 18 months, the helmet law was not enforced. Helmet wearing increased initially, but 17 months later was only a little higher than pre-law (King and Fraine, 1993):

Cyclists wearing helmets Pre-law 17 months after law
Primary schoolchildren 59% 72%
Secondary schoolchildren 13% 21%
Commuter cyclists 21% 37%
Recreational cyclists 22% 22%

Thereafter the law was rigorously enforced in most localities, but this has required substantial resources. Nearly 23,000 bicycle helmet offence notices were issued annually, 6.7% of all traffic offence notices. Per km, cyclists were three times more likely to receive a notice for not wearing a helmet than other road users for all other offences. (King and Fraine, 1993)

Effect on casualties

The change in percentage of skull fractures and head wounds showed some relationship with the increase in helmet-wearing, but the total proportion suffering brain injury/concussion remained unchanged. From 1993-1995, the rate of intracranial injuries was little different and there were more cyclists with concussions than in 1991 when only half the number were wearing helmets. The rates of concussions and other intracranial injuries were both higher in 1992 when half wore helmets than in 1990 when perhaps a quarter wore helmets. (Robinson, 1997)

Effect on cycle use

A survey, mainly of schoolchildren, showed a decline in cycling of 22% from 1990 to 1991, before the law was enforced (Wikman and Sims, 1991). Owing to changes in survey conditions, it has been suggested that the true decline may have been in excess of 30%.

In a small survey in Brisbane in 2010, 85% of people said that the helmet law was a reason why they didn't use the city's new bike hire scheme. (Brisbane, 2010)

Benefit-cost

No data available.

Re-valuation

In September 2010 the Queensland Government told a correspondent that it was to undertake a thorough invesigation of national and international evidence on cycle helmets but that "For the time being at least, the department intends to maintain the current road rules in relation to bicycle helmets." This followed increasing public controversy about the helmet law, its effect on the Brisbane bike hire scheme and a report from Sydney University that cast doubt on the benefits of th Australian laws.

References

Brisbane, 2010

Opinion poll on the blog http://citycyclebrisbane.com, November 2010. .

King and Fraine, 1993

King M, Fraine G, 1993. Bicycle helmet legislation and enforcement in Queensland 1991-3: effects on helmet wearing and crashes. Queensland Transport, Brisbane June 1993.

QuTrans

Queensland Transport. .

Robinson, 1997

Robinson DL, 1997. Helmets and bicycle-related injuries in Queensland. Med J Aust 5 May 1997;166:510.

Wikman and Sims, 1991

Wikman J, Sims C, . Bicycle helmet wearing surveys 1990 and 1991. Royal Automobile Club of Queensland, Brisbane .

See also