Wearing helmets could make cyclists more likely to take risks, new research from Bath University shows. According to their results, rather than making cyclists more safe, helmets could actually increase the wearer’s likelihood of taking risks.
The scientists, led by Dr Tim Gamble and Dr Ian Walker, measured sensation-seeking behaviour and analysed risk taking in adults aged 17-56 using a computer-based simulation. The individuals in the study wore either a bicycle helmet or a baseball cap, which they were told was just there to support an eye-tracking device.
They were then tasked with inflating an on-screen animated balloon whilst wearing either the cap or the helmet and their tendency to keep on inflating the balloon was used to measure their level of risk taking.
Dr Ian Walker says: “The helmet could make zero difference to the outcome, but people wearing one seemed to take more risks in what was essentially a gambling task. The practical implication of our findings might be to suggest more extreme unintended consequences of safety equipment in hazardous situations than has previously been thought.
“Replicated in real-life settings, this could mean that people using protective equipment might take risks against which that protective equipment cannot reasonably be expected […]