Helmets are worn by only about one in 10 Los Angeles County children involved in bicycle accidents, despite a state law that requires helmets for riders under age 18, a new study finds.
The findings show the need for new education programmes to increase the use of bike helmets, according to the study authors.
The researchers analysed the medical records of more than 1 200 children, median age 13, who were treated for bicycle accident-related injuries in Los Angeles County between 2006 and 2011.
Overall, just over 11% of the children were wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, but there were significant racial/ethnic differences in helmet use. About 35% of white children wore helmets, compared to 7% of Asian children, 6% of black children and 4% of Hispanic children, the findings revealed.
The investigators also found that children over age 12 were less likely to wear a helmet and that helmet use was lower among children with public insurance than among those with private insurance (7.6% versus 15.2%), according to the study presented at the national conference of the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) in Orlando, Florida.
Nearly 6% of the children in the study required emergency surgery and the death rate was 0.7%. Of the nine children who died, eight were not wearing a helmet.
"Our study highlights the need to target minority groups, older children and those with lower socioeconomic status when implementing bicycle safety programmes in Los Angeles County," study author Dr Veronica Sullins said in an AAP news release.
Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Each year in the United States, bicycle crashes and bicycle-related head injuries cause 150 000 emergency department visits and nearly 400 deaths, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has more about children and bicycle safety.
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