Experts denounce MK Henin's attempt to water down Helmet Bill

The bill, pushed by amateur cyclists' groups, would exempt those aged 17 and up from having to wear helmets under most circumstances.

Some 300 senior physicians and public health experts have demanded that lawmakers vote down MK Dov Henin's private member's bill that would seriously dilute the law approved last year requiring all people on bicycles, skates, skateboards and other wheeled objects to wear protective helmets. Henin's bill, pushed by amateur cyclists' groups, would exempt those aged 17 and up from having to wear helmets under most circumstances. Some adult cyclists claim they are "safe enough" without helmets and that wearing them unnecessarily "heats them up" and "musses up" their hairdos, and that the helmets are annoying to carry around when riders are off their bikes. Adults would be exempt from the helmet requirement when riding bikes on inter-city roads, off-road paths and for sport or competition. The bill was approved on its preliminary reading a few weeks ago and is now due to be addressed by the Knesset Interior Committee. Among those who reportedly favor the amendment are MK Sheli Yacimovich and Knesset Education Committee chairman Michael Melchior. Beterem, the National Center for Child Safety and Health - which fought for years to get the original law passed - denounced Henin's bill, saying it would lead to many injuries and deaths. Other organizations that oppose it include the Health Ministry's National Council on Trauma, National Council for Child Health and Pediatrics, National Council for Home and Leisure Safety, the Israel Neurosurgery Society, and the Israel Pediatrics Society. Prof. Moshe Revah, a former director-general of Haifa's Rambam Medical Center who is chairman of the National Council on Trauma, said there was overwhelming medical and epidemiological evidence in favor of the National Bicycle Helmet Law and its role in protecting life and preventing longstanding brain injury. MKs who support the amendment "betray ignorance, fickleness, foolishness and recklessness" and advocate "the ethically corrupt notion that we sacrifice the certain protection of individual human life in the present for the sake of some obscure and undefined utopian value in the future. Preserve the bike helmet law and prevent more funerals and crushed skulls and brains," said Prof. Elihu Richter of the Injury Prevention Center at the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Community Medicine and Public Health. Bike helmets not only save lives but also a great deal of money, according to numerous studies, including one by Dr. Gary Greenberg, chief medical statistics expert at the Health Ministry, and Dr. Don Silverberg.