A ratings system for bicycle helmet safety, finally!
If you cycle or plan on cycling, you should invest in a helmet. Impacts to the head can cause serious injury, and having a helmet will give you much needed protection just in case. But how should you go about choosing a helmet?
All commercially available helmets meet a standard of safety (e.g. EN 1078 in the EU, CPSC standard in the US, etc.), but beyond the minimum requirement, there was little evidence to suggest which helmets offer the best protection, until now.
Following an extended period of research, Virginia Tech has released a ratings system for bicycle helmets (https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2018/06/ictas-bikehelmetratings.html). An initial set of 30 helmets is tested, and more are planned to be added in the future. Of the helmets tested, four obtained the highest 5-star rating, while two managed only an "adequate" 2-star rating. The rest fell in the 3-star and 4-star range.
While the sample size is small, it is clear that price is not a good indicator of helmet safety. Helmets become more expensive not because they overachieve on safety - some are more aerodynamic, some are lighter, and some are better ventilated for head cooling. Simply spending more money will not guarantee that you have bought a safer helmet. On the other hand, that means that it is possible to get a 5-star rated helmet for as little as US$75.
There are other things to consider as well while choosing a helmet. Whatever the safety rating, the helmet that offers the best protection is the one that is on your head, which means it is important to choose a helmet that you would actually wear. Be sure to try out helmets for fit and comfort before buying.
You can find the full set of bicycle helmet ratings at https://www.beam.vt.edu/helmet/bicycle-helmet-ratings.html
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