Jet carried out a survey of 8000 primary schoolchildren and found that two out of three do not wear a helmet because of peer pressure, although some said helmets are uncomfortable or too expensive.
The industry-funded Bike It scheme, which aims to get more children cycling to school, has a standard exercise to find out what prevents children from cycling to school. Pupils are given small coloured stickers and are asked to dot them on to sheets of A4 with titles such as 'bad weather', 'dangerous roads' and 'wearing helmets'. The standard response is for the 'wearing helmets' sheet to be the most covered in small stickers.
The Bike It experience and Jet's survey both find that children don't want to wear helmets. Bike It officers say forcing children to wear helmets will make many give up cycling altogether.
That the wearing of helmets for those who don't want to wear them is a massive disincentive to cycling was recognised by helmet compulsion MP Eric Martlew in a parliamentary debate in March this year.
He said: "Youngsters are saying, "Look at mushroom-head over there". They do not think that it is cool to wear a helmet... They are pressured into thinking that if they wear one they are a coward."
Martlew believes modern youth is law-abiding to a degree hitherto unknown: "[Children] would like legislation to be passed, because then they could say, "I have to wear a helmet, because it is the law."
Jet communications manager Roy Roley wants such legislation to be pushed through:
"We are really concerned that children are putting their image before their own safety by choosing not to wear a cycling helmet," he said.
"Young cyclists are among the most vulnerable road users and it is our responsibility as parents to ensure that they are properly protected and that means wearing a helmet.
Without the weight of legislation people often dont choose to take the safest option we have seen it before with wearing seatbelts, motor cycle crash helmets and more recently, using a mobile phone while driving. Hopefully the government will listen to the voices of almost 5 million children and decide that wearing a cycling helmet should be a legal requirement.
BikeBiz.com asked Roley whether Jet would launch a similar helmet campaign for children travelling in cars, an activity statistically more dangerous for children than cycling lid-less.
He said: "Our whole campaign this year is focussed on cycle helmets for children, but next year you never know, it could be for wearing helmets in cars."
However, it's unlikely in the extreme that a company that sells its products to motorists will campaign for its customers to wear in-car helmets despite the evidence of such a measure's effectiveness. A study for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau ('Prevention of Head Injuries to Car Occupants: An Investigation of Interior') concluded that "protective headwear, similar to a soft shell pedal cycle helmet, is estimated to be much more effective than padding the car in preventing cases of fatal brain injury and in improving the outcome in cases of severe brain injury."
Child cyclists, by and large, do not buy fuel so there's little risk of Jet's 'make kids wear lids' campaign back-firing.
Here's an abstract of the Australian car helmet study:http://www.atsb.gov.au/.../cr160ex.cfm
Jet's campaign is getting media airtime. It made the ITN news earlier today with a cut down report on the ITN website:http://www.itv.com/.../index_820914.html
CBBC has also carried a web report (calling cycle helmets "hats") and this may make it on to this evening's Newsround on BBC1:http://news.bbc.co.uk/.../4702501.stm
Here's Jet's full press release:
PRESSURE TO BE COOL PUTS MILLIONS OF YOUNG CYCLISTS AT RISK
Children call for a change in the law
Four million primary school children* are putting their lives at risk every year because they think it is uncool to wear a cycling helmet. The findings come from the largest ever survey of school children on cycling safety carried out by Jet petrol stations as part of their Safe & Smile campaign.
More than three quarters (77%) of the children questioned said they would always wear a cycling helmet if a change in the law made it compulsory.
The research, which involved more than 8000 children, revealed that peer pressure to be cool was the main reason not to wear a helmet for 70% of the children questioned. Other reasons included discomfort and expense. Worryingly more than a quarter of children said they dont even own a helmet.
More than a third of the schools questioned said they encourage children to cycle to school and do everything they can to persuade pupils to wear a helmet. However, despite warnings from schools, children are continuing to cycle without wearing a helmet and this is a growing cause for concern.
The latest figures show that approximately 100,000 children are injured in cycling accidents each year and over 1300 under 16 year olds are seriously injured or killed in cycling accidents. Two thirds of the children questioned in Jets study said theyd had an accident on their bike, and of those, almost two thirds (65%) said they werent wearing a cycling helmet at the time.
* 62% of primary school aged children said they dont wear a cycling helmet
Fuel company Jet has launched a campaign designed to reverse the trend and mount peer pressure to wear a cycling helmet. As part of its annual road safety initiative, Safe & Smile, children across the UK have designed posters
encouraging their classmates to wear a cycling helmet. The winning entry by 10-year-old Alessandro Suitters from Hertfordshire will be displayed at Jet service stations across the UK during the school summer holidays.
Roy Roley, campaign manager for Jet Safe & Smile, said:
We are really concerned that children are putting their image before their own safety by choosing not to wear a cycling helmet. Young cyclists are among the most vulnerable road users and it is our responsibility as parents to ensure that they are properly protected and that means wearing a helmet.
Without the weight of legislation people often dont choose to take the safest option we have seen it before with wearing seatbelts, motor cycle crash helmets and more recently, using a mobile phone while driving. Hopefully the Government will listen to the voices of almost 5 million children and decide that wearing a cycling helmet should be a legal requirement.