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Helmet laws: Western Australia

Introduction and scope

The Western Australian helmet law came into effect from 1st January 1992. It was enforced from 1st July 1992. The law applies to all ages.

Compliance and enforcement

Cycle helmet use rose over the first two years of the law before stablising (Market Equity, 1995):

1991 1992 1993 1995
39% 62% 81% 77%

In 2005, helmet use in Perth was estimated at 70% to 80%, varying by locality. By 2007 some parts of the city had much lower levels of helmet wearing, particularly among children and teenagers living in less affluent areas.

In some localities the law is strictly enforced, in others much less so. It would appear that Perth police now afford the law less priority than was previously the case.

Effect on casualties

The law resulted in the number of head injuries falling by 11% to 21% (Hendrie, Legge, Rosman and Kirov, 1999). However, this was proportionately less than the decline in cycling. The risk of head injury for those who continued to cycle increased.

Total cyclist hospital admissions have increased steadily since law enforcement despite the large fall in cycle use (Meuleners, Gavin and Cercarelli, 2003):

1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
574 633 644 660 715 754 850 862 913

Effect on cycle use

Before the law, cycling was enjoying a tremendous increase in popularity in Western Australia, growing at 12% per year during the 1980s (BFA, 1992b). The law saw the start of a serious decline.

Following the helmet law, cycle use in Western Australia fell by 30% or more.

Automatic counters installed on two key cyclist bridges over the Swan river in Perth recorded an average of 16,326 cycle movements weekly for the three months October to December 1991 (pre law). The same months in the post law years 1992-94 recorded 13067, 12470 and 10701 cyclist movements per week. Thus, on those bridges (which may not have been typical of cycling throughout WA), decline over the first 3 years, were: 20%, 24% and 35%. Over the following 3 years cycling was 30%, 14% and 12% below pre-law levels. (Robinson, 1996)

On Sundays there was an average decline in cycle use of 40% on these bridges (47.4% on the Causeway, 31.9% on the Narrows bridges) and 26% on weekdays. (Heathcote, 1993)

One bike hire company, which had recorded only 2 minor injuries in 100,000 hirings, reported the loss of 90% of its business overnight. Within 6 months of the law, 5 cycle shops went bankrupt and bike sales were down by 70% (CW, 1993).

In the five years following 1991, the number of children cycling to school fell by more than a half. (ICBC)

By 1998/99, following much promotion, cycling had returned to similar levels to that experienced pre-law. However, there had been shifts from regular utility cycling to leisure cycling and in the average age of cyclists, with considerably fewer children riding. There was the loss of more than a decade of potential cycling growth (cycling levels were increasing before the law) and in Perth part of the new increase was due to population growth (up 15% 1991 to 2001). (WAust, 2004)

Cost benefit

An economic evaluation by the Road Accident Prevention Research Unit of the University of Western Australia found the mandatory helmet legislation most probably had a negative cost impact as high as AUD21 million between 1991 and 1998. (Hendrie, Legge, Rosman and Kirov, 1999)

The references below include additional related studies


BFA, 1992b

Newman P, . Better cities for bicyclists. Proceedings of a national bicycle conference, Melbourne, March 1992. Bicycle Federation of Australia..

CW, 1993

Oz helmet fiasco. Cycling Weekly, 11 December 1993.

Healy and Maisey, 1992

Healy M, Maisey G, 1992. The impact of helmet wearing legislation and promotion on bicyclists in Western Australia. Traffic Board of Western Australia .

Heathcote, 1993

Heathcote B, 1993. Bicycle helmet wearing in Western Australia. Western Australia Police Department .

Hendrie, Legge, Rosman and Kirov, 1999

Hendrie D, Legge M, Rosman D, Kirov C, 1999. An Economic Evaluation of the Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Legislation in Western Australia. Road Accident Prevention Research Unit .


Data from Traffic Collision Statistics British Columbia. Published by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.

Market Equity, 1995

Market Equity survey. 1995.

Meuleners, Gavin and Cercarelli, 2003

Meuleners LB, Gavin AL, Cercarelli LR, 2003. Bicycle crashes and injuries in Western Australia 1987 - 2000. University of Western Australia RR131.

Robinson, 1996

Robinson DL, 1996. Head injuries and bicycle helmet laws. Accident Analysis & Prevention 1996 Jul;28(4):463-75.

Somerford et al, 1998

Somerford P, Pinder T, Valuri G, Price S, Stevens M, 1998. Bicycle injury hospitalisations and deaths in Western Australia 1981-1995. Health Department of Western Australia ISBN:0-7307-3810-8.

WAust, 2004

West Australian, 10 March 2004. .

See also