Fashionable alternative to biking helmets might reduce head injuries

Studies have shown that head injuries comprise the most serious type of injury resulting from a bicycling accident. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concludes that, in the majority of cycling fatalities, the most critical injuries were those to the head. This fact underscores the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet. The IIHS says that studies have repeatedly demonstrated that helmet use reduces head injuries by 85 percent. Helmets are important for riders of all ages. Indeed, the vast majority of bicycle deaths are to persons 20 and older.

Several media outlets, including NBC, NPR and BBC News, have featured stories about a new bicycle safety product developed in Sweden which is referred to generally as the "Hovding helmet." Technically, the Hovding is not a helmet. It operates more like an air-bag tucked away in a collar worn around a cyclist's neck. When the internal sensors of the collar detect that an impact is occurring, the air bag inflates-thanks to a small gas canister-and deploys within milliseconds. Once activated, the Hovding envelops the cyclist's head with an air cushioning nylon hood which aims to reduce the severity of bicycle accident head injuries.

The idea for the Hovding began because its Swedish designers were tired of traditional hard plastic helmets that they felt were unfashionable and ruined their hair. Over a period of several years, the duo designed, engineered and tested the collar which is now available in several trendy and upscale color designs. NBC reports that a Swedish insurance company which evaluated the Hovding concluded that it was three to four times better than a helmet in terms of shock absorbance. Moreover, it covers more of the head, including the entire neck area, than would a traditional helmet. One drawback of the Hovding may the price. It retails for just over $500. Currently, it does not appear to be readily available in the United States.

Reducing accidents

While unique inventions such as the Hovding helmet hold promise for reducing the severity of cycling head injuries, the Connecticut Department of Transportation is attempting to reduce the actual number of accidents involving non-motorized highway users such as bicyclists and pedestrians. Connecticut's Strategic Highway Safety Plan sets forth the following goals geared towards making our roads safer for non-motorized highway users.

  • Build an effective and safe non-motorized transportation network.
  • Closely examine the causes of non-motorized accidents in order to develop counter-measures.
  • Try to improve motorist awareness and respect for non-motorized highway users.
  • Place special emphasis on the safety needs of children and seniors.
  • Attempt to link non-motorized traveler safety with broader objectives such as public health, quality of life and the environment.

The Safety Plan envisions identifying additional dedicated funding sources which can be used to advance both bicycle and pedestrian safety. Hopefully, adequate funding for these important safety initiatives can be found.

Recovering for injuries

Cyclists can take a major role in preventing accidents from happening by being alert, obeying the rules of the road and wearing helmets. However, there are sometimes situations where best precautions may not be sufficient to protect from a bicycle accident. Connecticut law affords victims a right to seek compensation for any injuries they may have sustained as the result of a negligent motorist. If you have been injured in a collision with a motor vehicle, contact an attorney who is experienced in handling bicycle accident cases and who can advise you as to your options for seeking compensation.