Over 20 states have adopted laws requiring youths to wear a helmet
when riding a bicycle. We confirm previous research indicating that
these laws reduced fatalities and increased helmet use, but we also show that the laws significantly reduced youth bicycling. We find this result in standard two-way fixed effects models of parental reports of youth bicycling, as well as in triple difference models of self-reported bicycling among high school youths that explicitly account for bicycling by youths just above the helmet law age threshold. Our results highlight important intended and unintended consequences of a well-intentioned public policy.
No worries, pretty soon as part of comprehensive health reform, the health “choices” czar will mandate that all kids ride their government subsidized GM bicycles for 30 minutes per day. And then he’ll mandate that all bike helmets are cool. Phew.