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Bicycle helmets have been mandatory in New Zealand since January, 1994. The statute, delineated in Part 11 of the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004 (SR 2004/427), states that "A person must not ride, or be carried on, a bicycle on a road unless the person is wearing a safety helmet of an approved standard that is securely fastened." The law describes six different acceptable helmet standards.
Violating the law can result in a $55 infringement fee and a maximum $1,000 penalty on summary conviction.
A 2011 survey by the New Zealand Ministry of Transport found the national cycle helmet wearing rate, covering all age groups, to be 93%, the same as found in 2010 and up from the 92% rate seen in 2007–2009.
The mandatory helmet law had its genesis in the late 1980s when Rebecca Oaten, dubbed the "helmet lady" in the media, started a campaign advocating for compulsory helmets. Her son, Aaron, had been permanently brain damaged in 1986 while riding his 10-speed bicycle to school in Palmerston North. A car driver hit him, flinging Aaron over the handlebars and headfirst to the ground,where his head struck the concrete gutter. After 8 months in a coma, Aaron awoke paralysed and unable to speak. According to Oaten, a doctor at the time told her that Aaron would "almost certainly not have suffered brain damage" had he been wearing a bicycle helmet.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s Oaten travelled the country promoting the use of cycle helmets. For six years she visited an average of four schools a day, "lambasting" children with reasons why they should wear helmets.She also set up a lobby group, the Protect the Brains trust, which spread nationwide and put pressure on the government for a bicycle helmet law.
Research on the helmet law's effects in New Zealand has yielded conflicting results.
A 1999 study concluded that "the helmet law has been an effective road safety intervention that has led to a 19% (90% CI: 14, 23%) reduction in head injury to cyclists over its first 3 years." However, the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation (BHRF) notes that although the helmet law resulted in a 19% reduction in head injuries, this was accompanied by an approximately 22% reduction in cycling between 1993 and 1997, raising the overall risk of head injury per cyclist. The helmet law applies only to on-road cycling, surveys of on-road cycle helmet wearing indicated that between 1989 and 1992, the number of on-road cyclists reduced by 19%.
In a study by the Ministry of Transport published in 1999, researchers estimated that from 1990 to 1996, that the increase in helmet-wearing after passage of the law "reduced head injuries by between 24 and 32% in non-motor vehicle crashes, and by 20% in motor vehicle crashes."
A 2001 study by Robinson re-evaluated that data, finding that the reduction in head injuries per limb injuries, for crashes not involving motor vehicles injuries, was part of a larger downward time trend and bore no directcorrelation to the dramatic increase in helmet-wearing following the introduction of the helmet law. Robinson concluded: "Because the large increases in wearing with helmet laws have not resulted in any obvious change over and above existing trends, helmet laws and major helmet promotion campaigns are likely to prove less beneficial and less cost effective than proven road-safety measures." See Figure 1.
A 2002 study of New Zealand's bicycle helmet law using cost-benefit analysis found that the law is only cost-effective for the 5-12 year-old age group. Research from Massey University in 2006 found that compulsory bicycle helmet laws led to a lower uptake of cycling, principally for aesthetic reasons.
A 2010 study found a declining trend in the rate of traumatic brain injuries among cyclists from 1988-91 to 1996-99. "However, it is unclear whether this reflects the effectiveness of the mandatory all-age cycle helmet law implemented in January 1994 or simply reflects a general decline in all road injuries during that period." The same study noted that "Of particular concern are children and adolescents who have experienced the greatest increase in the risk of cycling injuries despite a substantial decline in the amount of cycling over the past two decades." and that "The "safety in numbers" phenomenon suggests that the risk profile of cyclists may improve if more people cycle. In New Zealand, the overall travel mode share for cycling declined steadily from 4% in 1989 to 1% in 2006."
A study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal in 2012 reported that "pre-law (in 1990) cyclist deaths were nearly a quarter of pedestrians in number, but in 2006–09, the equivalent figure was near to 50% when adjusted for changes to hours cycled and walked," a 20% higher risk per hour of bicycle use. The paper "finds the helmet law has failed in aspects of promoting cycling, safety, health, accident compensation, environmental issues and civil liberties."
National advocacy group Cycling Advocates' Network (CAN) "fully supports the use of helmets when undertaking recreational cycling in difficult terrain or high-speed competitive racing" but supports further research on the helmet law's effectiveness, finding evidence that "mandatory cycle helmet wearing legislation is not working as intended and should be reviewed." Such research is not currently a high priority for the group, and in a poll of its members, CAN noted an even split for and against helmet legislation, but helmet legislation was members' lowest campaigning priority.
New Zealand cycling organization BikeNZ reminds riders that helmets are legally required and says helmets "can reduce the severity of injuries in many types of accident" but can't be relied on exclusively and should be part of an overall cycling safety regimen.
Cycling Health New Zealand does not oppose helmet use, but does oppose compulsion, taking a civil liberties stance on the issue: "Individuals should have the right to choose whether or not to use a helmet, without interference by Governments. We believe that the role of Government should be limited to advising the public, without bias, of the pros and cons of helmet use."
Safekids New Zealand, a national child injury prevention service, promotes helmet-wearing by children with a factsheet detailing bicycle injury statistics.
Safekids New Zealand, the ACC and the NZ Ministry of Transport all claim that helmets reduce the risk of brain injury by "up to 88%". This figure derives from an American research paper from the 1980s and has beenquestioned.
Government response 
In response to the formation of Cycling Health New Zealand in January 2003 a Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA) spokesman called helmets a "very important tool" for preventing injuries and dismissed the anti-compulsion group as "the lunatic fringe", a comment denounced by CAN, urging the LTSA to "play the ball and not the person." In June 2004 an LTSA spokesperson stated, "I think the vast majority of people accept the fact that helmets protect them. There is no evidence that the helmet law discourages cycling or harms the health of New Zealanders - there is evidence that it has contributed to a reduction in cyclist head injuries."
In October 2008, Minister for Transport Safety Harry Duynhoven pondered, "I wonder if we never had helmets what our cycle population might be... I'm not advocating getting rid of helmets, I'm just saying I wonder what the social effect of helmets has been." Advocate Rebecca Oaten was appalled by his remarks.
See also 
- Cycling in New Zealand
- Transport in New Zealand
- History of cycling in New Zealand
- Bicycle helmets by country
- "Helmet Laws for Bicycle Riders" Retrieved 2012-02-04
- "New Zealand Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004(SR 2004/427)" Retrieved 2012-02-04.
- "Land Transport (Offences and Penalties) Regulations 1999 (SR 1999/99) (as at 20 October 2011)" Retrieved 2012-02-06
- Dearnaley, Mathew "Cycling advocate ends his helmet headache", The New Zealand Herald. 2 June 2004. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
- http://www.transport.govt.nz/research/Cyclehelmetuse2011/ Cycle helmet use: Results of national survey, March/April 2011 Retrieved 2012-02-04
- Price, Christel. "The legacy of a life", The Guardian (Manawatu), 26 August 2010.
- Duff, Michelle (17 August 2010). "Aaron's tragedy spurred Helmet Lady's crusade". Manawatu Standard. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
- Mullins, Justin."Hard-Headed Choice", New Scientist, 22 July 2000. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
- Kennett, Jonathan (2004). Ride: The Story of Cycling in New Zealand. Wellington: Kennett Brothers. p. 216. ISBN 0-9583490-7-X.
- Robinson, D.L. (2001). "Changes in head injury with the New Zealand bicycle helmet law". Accident Analysis and Prevention 33 (5): 687–697. doi:10.1016/S0001-4575(00)00073-7. Retrieved 2008-03-29.
- Scuffham, P; Jonathan Alsop,Colin Cryer, John D. Langley (2000). "Head injuries to bicyclists and the New Zealand bicycle helmet law". Accident Analysis & Prevention 32 (4): 565–573. doi:10.1016/S0001-4575(99)00081-0. PMID 10868759. Retrieved 2012-02-01.
- Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation. "Helmet Laws: A Summary of their Effects". Retrieved 2012-02-6.
- Trends in cycle injury in New Zealand under voluntary helmet use; Scuffham PA, Langley JD; Accid Anal Prev. 1997 Jan;29(1):1-9
- Povey, L. J.; W. J. Frith and P. G. Graham (1999). "Cycle helmet effectiveness in New Zealand". Accident Analysis and Prevention 31 (6): 763–770. doi:10.1016/S0001-4575(99)00033-0. PMID 10487351. Retrieved 2009-08-26.
- Taylor, M; P Scuffham (2002). "New Zealand bicycle helmet law—do the costs outweigh the benefits?". Injury Prevention 8 (4): 317–320. doi:10.1136/ip.8.4.317. PMC 1756574. PMID 12460970. Retrieved 2008-03-29.
- Cycling Health. "Dump Harmful Helmet Law, Say Cyclists", Scoop, 13 Dec 2006. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
- Tin Tin, Sandar; Alistair Woodward and Shanthi Ameratunga (2010). "Injuries to pedal cyclists on New Zealand roads, 1988-2007". BMC Public Health 10 (655). doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-655. PMC 2989960. PMID 21034490. Retrieved 2012-02-06.
- Clarke, Colin (2012). "Evaluation of New Zealand’s bicycle helmet law". New Zealand Medical Journal 125 (1349).
- "CAN and Cycle Helmet Legislation" Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- BikeNZ. "Road Rules" Retrieved 2012-02-06.
- "Cycling Health New Zealand" Retrieved 2013-05-03.
- Safekids "Factsheet: Child Cyclist Injury", July 2007. Retrieved 2013-05-3.
- ACC. "Preventing injuries in your community", ACC5209, 28 Apr 2010, Accident Compensation Corporation, p.7. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- Ministry of Transport "Cyclists: Crash Factsheet 2010", Sep 2010. Retrieved 2013-05-03.
- BHRF. Why it is wrong to claim that cycle helmets prevent 85% of head injuries and 88% of brain injuries.
- Lowe, Matthew (19 Jan 2003). "'Ridiculous' helmet law under fire". Sunday Star-Times. Retrieved 2011-01-31. (Note: The original article is no longer online. The link is to an issue of CAN's e.CAN newsletter which includes the article verbatim.)
- Cycling Advocates Network: Press Release. "Helmet Law Concerns Are Legitimate, Say Cyclists", 22 Jan 2003. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
- Williamson, Kerry."Helmets 'may be deterring cyclists'", The Dominion Post, 23 Oct 2008. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
- Cycling Health - a New Zealand group promoting removal of the compulsory bicycle helmet law.
- New Zealand Helmet Wars - a 2002 article from Safekids NZ in support of the helmet law.
- Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004 - the wording of New Zealand's bicycle helmet law.
- Mandatory bicycle helmet laws in New Zealand - summary of New Zealand's bicycle helmet law and its effects.