What Do Bicycle Helmet Laws Do? Evidence from Canada

23 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2019

See all articles by Christopher S. Carpenter

Christopher S. Carpenter

Vanderbilt University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Casey Warman

Dalhousie University

Date Written: April 2019


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 to 2014. We first confirm prior patterns from the United States 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%–190% 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. Overall, our findings confirm that all‐age helmet laws can be effective at increasing population helmet use without significant unintended adverse health consequences.

JEL Classification: I18, I12, K32

Suggested Citation

Carpenter, Christopher S. and Warman, Casey, What Do Bicycle Helmet Laws Do? Evidence from Canada (April 2019). Economic Inquiry, Vol. 57, Issue 2, pp. 832-854, 2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3342648 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ecin.12739

Christopher S. Carpenter (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University ( email )

Box 1819 Station B
Nashville, TN 37235
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/kittcarpenter/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Casey Warman

Dalhousie University ( email )

Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 3J5

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