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Do 'All-Age' Bicycle Helmet Laws Work? Evidence from Canada

Christopher S. Carpenter, Casey Warman

NBER Working Paper No. 24644
Issued in May 2018
NBER Program(s):The Program on Children, The Health Economics Program, The Law and Economics Program

Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia require youths to wear helmets when riding a bicycle, and there has been a push to extend such laws to adults. We provide new evidence on helmet laws by studying Canada using difference-in-differences models and restricted area-identified public health survey data with information on cycling and helmet use for nearly 800,000 individuals from 1994-2014. We first confirm prior patterns from the US that laws requiring youths to wear helmets significantly increased youth helmet use. We then provide the literature’s first comprehensive evidence that ‘all-age’ bicycle helmet laws significantly increased both adult and youth helmet use by 50 to 190 percent relative to pre-reform levels, with larger effects for younger adults, and less-educated adults. All-age helmet laws had modest effects at reducing cycling and increasing in-home exercise during winter months among adults but did not meaningfully affect weight. Finally, we find larger effects of helmet laws at increasing helmet use for adults with children in the household, consistent with role-modeling behavior. Overall our findings confirm that all-age helmet laws can be effective at increasing population helmet use without significant unintended adverse health consequences.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24644

Published: Christopher S. Carpenter & Casey Warman, 2019. "What Do Bicycle Helmet Laws Do? Evidence from Canada," Economic Inquiry, vol 57(2), pages 832-854.

 
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