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Bicycle and helmet use factors in an adolescent population in Winnipeg

by Stewart, Gladys L.

Abstract (Summary)
More than 100 Canadians, half of them children under the age of 15, die every year because of bicycle injuries. Head injuries cause 75% of these deaths. Research has shown that bicycle helmets can reduce the risk of serious head injury by up to 85 percent. Although the use of bicycle helmets has been increased by promotional interventions, the level of helmet use remains low among adolescents. varying frorn seven to 17 percent. The purpose of this study was to describe bicycle and helmet use in an adolescent population in Winnipeg and to assesç the factors related to helmet use. The proportion of adolescents in Winnipeg exposed to the risks associated with bicycle riding was determined partially by a direct observation study of cyclists commuting to school and from an analysis of data from a cross-sectional self-administered questionnaire. The prevalence of bicycle use in Winnipeg adolescents commuting to school by direct observation was 8.4 percent ( 95% CI 8.0-8.8). Of the 274 bicycle riders, 12.8% (95% CI 8.6 - 17.0) were observed wearing helmets. The self-reported questionnaire found that 67.4% of students rode their bicycles in the 30 days preceding the survey. Helmet use in the last 30 days was reported by 14.5% of cyclists. Ownership of bicycle helrnets was found to be 43.6% and varied between grade groups and subregions of Winnipeg. Helmet ownership is higher in middle to high incorne subregions of Winnipeg, and lower in a low income subregion (pc0.0001). Helmet ownership is significantly higher in grades 7-9 than in grades 10-12 (p<0.001). Among adolescent helmet owners. only 21% reported always wearing their helmets. The major impediment to helmet use was discornfort. followed by lack of perceived need. The strongest predictor of helmet use was a positive belief in helmet effectiveness. This observational study provides information to help focus health promotion activities to promote bicycle safety helmets and enhance bicycle safety in Manitoba. Consideration should be given to the development of graphic and more realistic educational strategies to increase helmet use. Public policy requiring the use of mandatory helmets has a high potential for increasing helmet use and encouraging adolescent helmet owners to Wear their helmets.
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Source Type:Master's Thesis

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Date of Publication:01/01/1998

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