Dutch Foundation Report on Bicycle Helmet Promotion
Stichting Consument en Veiligheid - Netherlands
Consumer and Safety Foundation
Reports: Bicycle helmets for young children: determinants for purchase and use
Establishment Number R265 - Publication date October 2003
Available on the web only in the original Dutch version
Approximately 18,000 children present to the emergency rooms of hospitals in the Netherlands each year. About one quarter of them have head injuries. Research indicates that wearing a bicycle helmet can reduce the probability of serious head injury by 85 per cent. But only a minority of young children wear helmets while cycling. The literature gives no clear picture of the factors that motivate parents to buy a bicycle helmet, nor of the factors that motivate them to be sure their child wears the helmet once purchased. To find out more about the factors that are important in helmet wearing by four to eight year olds an investigation was conducted by Consument en Veiligheid in conjunction with Stichting Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Verkeersveiligheid (SWOV), the Verenigde Verkeers Veiligheid Organisaties (3VO) and the University of Maastricht. The theories of Rogers and ... provided the theoretical framework.
In the first phase of the research a market exploration was carried out, based on existing studies of marketing of bicycle helmets for children in the Netherlands. In addition a literature search was conducted seeking the determinants of bicycle helmet use. Next we studied qualitative factors using focus groups with parents and children, and quantitative factors through questionnaires to parents whose children did not use helmets. Finally, based on the research results a group of experts met and began developing a strategy to promote voluntary purchase and use of bicycle helmets for children.
From the results it appears that the demand for child bicycle helmets has increased in the Netherlands strongly in the mid-1990s. In addition, the product has vastly improved, with additional choices, more attractive exteriors and improved comfort. In the past five years 22 per cent of Dutch parents have bought a bicycle helmet for their child. Of the children with a helmet, 63 per cent have actually use them in recent months.
The difference between parents who do or do not buy helmets includes among other things the perceptions about the advantages and disadvantages of helmet use and the dangers of cycling. They also more often have a partner who believes in helmet use by the child. Often a helmet is bought when the child learns to cycle. A bicycle helmets is almost never bought for a child who is a passenger on the back of a parent's bike. The relationship with the child and skill in persuading the child to wear a helmet are important factors that promote wearing the helmet. Children from one year to six years old accept wearing a helmet when told to do so. As the child becomes older, parents are less likely to insist that they wear a helmet because they find the risk more acceptable for an older child.
Based on the results it is recommended that a helmet be bought and fitted in a broad range of activities where a child moves at speed. Helmets can be used in activities where head injuries occur, and in fact are already used in some (skating, etc.).
Promotion activities should target parents or guardians of children younger than age six. An important principle is that the child begin learning to ride with a helmet. It is important to promote helmet use for children riding on child carriers on the back of a bicycle. Other themes to use include close association of bicycle and helmet, use of school and other organizations to raise the visibility level of helmet use and support parents whose children use helmets as a positive social influence.
Interventions should emphasize both buying and wearing a helmet. This is important because it appears that many children either do not have a helmet or no longer use theirs after some period of time.