Wearing a bicycle helmet
In Victoria, all bike riders and their passengers and scooter riders are required to wear a bike helmet.
This applies when riding on:
- bike paths
- bike lanes
- shared and separated footpaths
- recreational parks
- car parks.
Research indicates that bike helmets greatly reduce the risk of head injuries, which are the major cause of death and injury to bike riders. When choosing a bike helmet make sure:
- it fits firmly and comfortably on your head and cannot be tilted in any direction
- the straps can be adjusted so there is no slack when fastened
- it has a sticker showing it is safety approved and meets the Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 2063
- if the helmet is manufactured or imported from 1 July 2012, it is marked with the symbol of a body accredited by the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ)*, certifying compliance with AS/NZS2063.
* Accredited companies that certify bike helmets can be found on the JAS-ANZ website
Facts about helmet wearing, bike riding & the law
- Helmet laws were introduced on 1 July 1990 in Victoria.
- From March 1990 to March 1991, helmet wearing rates in Victoria increased from 31% to 75%.
- Two years after the legislation was introduced, there was a 16% reduction in head injuries in metropolitan Melbourne and a 23% reduction in head injuries throughout Victoria. There was also an immediate reduction in bike riders, however by 1992 the numbers of bike riders had approached pre-legislation levels.
- Even though bicycle helmets are mandatory, the number of people cycling is increasing each year. See Road use and performance for more information.
- Between 2004 and 2008, 66% of bike rider traffic infringements in Victoria were issued for failing to wear a helmet.
- Police can stop bike riders and issue a fine or a warning for not wearing a helmet.
Helmet tips for parents and carers
For information about children wearing bicycle helmets visit Helmet tips for parents and carers.
Research about bicycle helmets
The mandatory helmet wearing requirement for bike riders is an important road safety initiative aimed at reducing the severity of crash outcomes. The rule is based on strong research evidence and has been adopted by all jurisdictions in Australia. VicRoads has a responsibility to take action to minimise the cost to the community of road deaths and injuries and the compulsory use of bicycle helmets has contributed significantly to meeting this responsibility.
Since the introduction of mandatory helmet wearing, there have been numerous studies into many facets of bicycle helmets including vigorous international debate on the effectiveness and desirability of helmet wearing.
A 2013 study investigated the factors, including helmet use, that contribute to head linear and angular acceleration in bicycle crash simulation tests. It was found that helmet use was the most significant factor in reducing the magnitude of head and brain injury. The study reinforces the benefits of wearing a bicycle helmet in a crash. It also demonstrated that helmets do not increase angular head acceleration, as some researchers have claimed. (Andrew S. McIntosh , Adrian Lai & Edgar Schilter (2013): Bicycle Helmets: Head Impact Dynamics in Helmeted and Unhelmeted Oblique Impact Tests, Traffic Injury Prevention, 14:5, 501-508)
A 2013 study on the effectiveness of helmets in collisions between bike riders and motor vehicles in New South Wales between 2001 and 2009 found that helmet wearing significantly reduced the risk of moderate, serious and severe head injury by up to 74%. Helmets were found to be particularly effective in reducing the risk of more severe head injuries. The study also found that non-helmeted bike riders were more likely to engage in risky cycling behaviour, such as:
- disobeying traffic controls (9.4% compared with 3.3%)
- cycling with a Blood Alcohol Concentration greater than 0.05 (7.2% compared with 1.7%).
The study also found high rates of helmet non-use amongst children and adolescents. The research is the first of its kind in that it specifically analysed data relating to bike rider collisions with motor vehicles and the injury outcomes. (Bambach, M. R., Mitchell, R. J., Grzebieta, R. H., Olivier, J. The effectiveness of helmets in bicycle collisions with motor vehicles: A case-control study. Accident Analysis and Prevention, Issue 53, 2013).
A 2011 study investigated the effect of compulsory helmet legislation on head injuries for bike riders in New South Wales, Australia. A review of 36 months of hospital data from the time that helmet legislation was introduced in 1990, found that for bike riders, the head injury rates reduced more significantly than limb injury rates, while this was not the case for pedestrians. Therefore this reduction in head injury rates for bike riders was attributed to the introduction of the mandatory bicycle helmet law. The study concluded that the evidence showing the positive outcomes in reducing cyclist head injuries justified the introduction of compulsory helmet legislation. (Walter SR, Olivier J, Churches T, Grzebieta R. The impact of compulsory cycle helmet legislation on cyclist head injuries in New South Wales, Australia. Accident Analysis and Prevention, Issue 43, 2011).
A 2010 study commissioned by the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads found the following: A review of the most scientifically rigorous research concluded that bicycle helmets that meet national standards protect against head, brain, and facial injuries. Helmet wearing was associated with a 69% reduction in the likelihood of head or brain injury and a 74% reduction in the likelihood of severe brain injury. The benefit was the same whether a motor vehicle was involved in the crash or not. Helmet wearing reduced the likelihood of injury to the upper and mid-face by 65%. (Haworth N, Schramm A, King M, Steinhardt D. (2010) Bicycle Helmet Research, CARRS-Q) [PDF 6.1 MB].
A report by The George Institute for International Health (June 2010), Factors in Cyclist Casualty Crashes in Victoria, found that approximately 80%of severe cyclist crashes that were reported to police in Victoria from 2004 to 2008 involved a car type vehicle. (Boufous S, de Rome L, Senserrick T, Ivers R, Stevenson M, Hinchcliff R, Ali M. Factors in Cyclist Casualty Crashes in Victoria. June 2010).
The Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) report indicated that there was an initial reduction in the number of people cycling in Victoria when the bicycle helmet legislation was introduced. However, within two years the number of bike riders returned to levels similar to those observed prior to the legislation.
(Finch C, Heiman L, Neiger D. Bicycle Use and Helmet Wearing Rates in Melbourne 1987 to 1992: The Influence of the Helmet Wearing Law, MUARC, Report 45, 1993).
The following section provides the titles of other research about bicycle helmets and links to where the reports or articles can be found online.
- Attewell R, Glase K, McFadden M. (2000) Bicycle helmets and injury prevention: A formal review (CR 195) Australian Transport Safety Bureau [PDF 118 Kb].
- Hynd D, Cuerden R, Reid S, Adams S. The potential for cycle helmets to prevent injury: A review of the evidence – Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) report for the Department for Transport, UK, 2009.
- Macpherson A, Spinks A. Bicycle helmet legislation for the uptake of helmet use and prevention of head injuries. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD005401. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005401.pub3 [PDF 226 Kb]
- Olivier J, Walter SR, Grzebieta R. Long term bicycle related head injury trends for New South Wales, Australia following mandatory helmet legislation. Accident Analysis and Prevention, in press 2012.
- SWOV (Institute for Road Safety Research, The Netherlands) Fact sheet: Bicycle Helmets, 2012. [PDF 85 Kb]
- Thompson DC, Rivara F, Thompson R. Helmets for preventing head and facial injuries in cyclists. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 1999, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD001855. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001855 [PDF 364 Kb]
Bicycle helmet brochure
Bicycle helmets - don't ride without one [PDF 251 Kb]