New inflatable bike helmets may be safer than the one you’re wearing, but if you live in the US you might not get to wear one until crash-test regulations catch up to the new design.
To figure out how inflatable helmets stack up against their dorkier, hardened-foam counterparts, Stanford scientists dropped a dummy on its head repeatedly. The faux-head was protected against the risk of injury up to eight times better when it was wearing an inflatable bike helmet made by Swedish company Hövding Sweden AB than when it was wearing a regular one. The researchers, led by bioengineer David Camarillo, recently published their results in the journal Annals of Biomedical Engineering.
Bike accidents are a leading cause of traumatic brain injuries in sports. While bike helmets are much better at protecting our heads than nothing at all, they’re not perfect. So improvements in helmets are a very big deal — and the Hövding helmet may represent a step forward. Right now, it’s approved for sale in Europe, and the company’s website says that insurance might even help cover a replacement in the event of an accident. But here in the US, there’s a major barrier to approval for a helmet that a rider wears strapped around her neck: the crash test dummies don’t have necks.