Smart helmets are all the rage – but they have a catch
Head protection is booming with integrated headlights, brake lights and direction indicators. However, the Advisory Center for Accident Prevention does give a warning.
They’re especially noticeable at dusk and night: futuristic-looking riders with the latest generation of shiny bike helmets. These smart headgear flash when you change direction, with a red LED light indicating the braking process and are often wirelessly connected to a smartphone via Bluetooth. You can listen to music on the integrated speaker or make calls on the built-in microphone.
According to Martin Plater of VeloSuis, a consortium of Swiss bicycle suppliers, mobile phone connections in particular have contributed greatly to the boom in these bicycle helmets. Platter can’t give exact sales figures: “But dealers tell us there’s a clear increase in demand.” He also attributes this to the fact that E-bikes to require headlights from April 1 this year was introduced. Such bicycle helmets often have a front light in addition to the brake light.
“Smart bike helmets do not replace hand signals or direction indicators.”
However, this front light is viewed critically by the Advice Center for Accident Prevention (BFU) and is clearly not recommended. According to BFU spokesman Mark Kiefer, it can be used, but the Road Traffic Act requires other road users not to be blind. Kiefer also points out an important limitation when it comes to direction indicators: “These do not replace hand signals or direction indicators permanently installed on bicycles or e-bikes.” For this reason, the Advice Center considers the Smart Bike Helmet as a sensible addition to permanently installed brake and indicator elements.
There are still no studies on the effectiveness of such smart bike helmets. So BFU is planning a survey on the use of visibility products among cyclists and e-bike riders. This should start in the autumn and may also include lighter elements on the helmet.
The advice center would like it if more cyclists wear helmets in general, whether smart or less smart. In Switzerland, only a little over half wear helmets, a liability only for e-bike riders with bicycles that are allowed for 45 kph. Slow e-bikes do not require head protection.
Protective effect of up to 50 percent
The BFU launched a futile campaign to force at least the children to wear helmets. Nearly a quarter of children in Switzerland are still cycling without head protection. But Parliament does not want children and youth up to the age of 16 to wear bicycle helmets. In the summer session, politicians decidedly removed the route related to the planned amendments to the Road Traffic Act – also due to resistance from cycling unions from Velosuis to Pro Velo Schweiz.
The positive impact of bicycle helmets is undeniable: Numerous studies show that they reduce the risk of head injuries, provided they are fitted and worn correctly. Meta-analyses calculated the protective effect of bicycle helmets to be 40 to 50 percent. Bicycle accidents are among the most common road traffic accidents in Switzerland, of which 82 percent are accidents themselves and 18 percent are collisions. In total, accidents occur with approximately 21,000 cyclists each year.
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