New exemptions in Queensland helmet laws said to be a back-pedal in safety

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Kangaroo Point: Some cyclists believe helmet laws should be more relaxed in low risk areas. Photo: Matt Hardie

MATT HARDIE

Wherever cycling is present, there is frequent debate over when and where riders feel it necessary to wear a helmet.

Whether it is riding for leisure, competition or transport, some see the use of a helmet as basic safety or legal procedure while others consider it an inconvenient aspect of cycling.

Following recent changes to Queensland’s existing helmet laws, in which Transport Minister Scott Emerson explained that exemptions will be made for religious beliefs, the new legislation has raised concern for cyclists.

The new laws are said to be set implemented at the end of the year, allowing those who follow Sikhism to freely wear their Dastar while riding a bicycle without the requirements of a helmet.

The discussion to relax helmet laws in low-risk areas has become even more common as a result.

Alongside his 19 year effort working as a paramedic and currently providing emergency services at the Redland Bay Ambulance Station, Colin Bushby also spent his time behind the handlebars riding mountain bike trails and has been an active cyclist in Australia as well as the UK for 20 years.

Mr Bushby experienced bicycle accidents from both sides while on a bike himself and also tended to those in emergency situations.

He said he believed that the proper use of a helmet should remain a top priority for cyclists.

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Even with a lack of pedestrians, accidents can still happen. Photo: Matt Hardie

“I think the idea of exempting helmet laws even in lower-risk areas, is a bad one,” Mr Bushby said.

“No matter how busy or quiet an area may seem, accidents still happen.

“If an area isn’t busy it doesn’t necessarily mean accidents won’t occur, riders make mistakes in judgement all the time or just fail to concentrate.”

While seeing these accidents first hand, Mr Bushby said bicycle injuries are all too common and suggested helmet misuse is seen more so as an image factor than an inconvenience.

“In the past five years, there has been a fair few accidents both on and off road that I’ve witnessed,” he said.

“The most memorable accident while working for QAS involved a teenager at a skate park.

“He was with a large group of mates all with helmets on, but to look the part none of the boys had their helmets fastened.

“The lad was attempting an aerial trick that went wrong and caused him to fall backwards off the BMX , losing the unbuckled helmet and hitting the back of his head on the concrete.

“I arrived to a barely conscious male, he was pale, vomiting and seemed confused with a large amount of blood on the concrete.”

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While some encourage less strict laws, others consider helmet laws vital for cyclist safety. Photo: Matt Hardie

Mr Bushby said the accident put the teen into a state of disarray and where he became violent.

“He required a sedative to protect himself from further injury after he became very combative,” he said.

“He then remained in an induced coma for approximately five days to allow the swelling on the brain to subside and it turned out he had a blood clot on the brain that required draining.

“Thankfully, his operation was a success and he was discharged but that just goes to show that if the helmet was fastened in the first place, he likely wouldn’t have sustained such a life threatening injury and not required emergency surgery.”

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Cyclists in built-up areas still urged to take necessary precautions. Photo: Matt Hardie

Speaking from current observations, most of the fellow ridersMr Bushby had met when mountain biking have all taken notice of the helmet laws so far.

“Back in the UK there was a lack of recreational riders wearing helmets as it wasn’t law, but in Australia everyone I ride with and have met on the trails wear helmets,” Mr Bushby said.

“I have however chatted to others about it, and it seems as though the general reason behind some not wearing helmets is fear of not looking cool in them.

“If people could actually see the end result of not wearing a helmet in an accident, they might think twice.”

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