Southampton ’s top brain injury expert has called for cycle helmets to be made compulsory.
Dr Andy Eynon, director of major trauma at Southampton General Hospital, said it would not only save lives but would save taxpayers about £25,000 each time a cyclist was seriously injured.
As revealed by the Daily Echo , more cyclists were hurt on Hampshire’s roads last year than anywhere outside London – 816 in 2011, an 18 per cent rise on the year before.
The figure emerged after Olympic time trial gold medallist Bradley Wiggins sparked a safety debate after a cyclist was killed by an official Games bus.
The Tour De France winner initially suggested helmets should be compulsory but later clarified his position to say cyclists should be better legally protected after an accident.
However Dr Eynon said cycle helmets offered vital protection to the brain.
He said: “You would not consider carrying your laptop outside without putting it inside a case.
“It costs society about £25,000 for an individual to be transferred to Southampton, operated on, treated in our intensive care unit and then cared for on our wards – and that is before taking into account rehabilitation costs and loss of income.
“A decent cycle helmet will cost less than £40.
“If every cyclist wore a helmet, the number killed or seriously injured each year would be greatly reduced.
“Actions such as not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle, not wearing a seatbelt, driving while using a mobile phone and even smoking in public are now seen as being socially irresponsible.
“It is time that not wearing a helmet while cycling is seen in the same light. Cycle helmets save lives and must be made compulsory.”
Dr Eynon, who advised on and advocated the introduction a compulsory cycle helmet law for under 18s in Jersey in 2010, treats people from across the region who have serious head and spinal injuries following cycle accidents.
He said: “I see firsthand the effects such injuries have on patients and their families.
“The vast majority of the patients here are not speeding motorcyclists – they are normal individuals who were doing normal day-to-day activities when they were injured, so it makes sense that we protect ourselves as best we can from the risk of sustaining a life-changing brain injury.”
However Southampton Cycling Campaign believes forcing people to wear helmets is not the solution.
Spokesman Dilys Gartside said: “It would make it more dangerous on the road. It would instantly reduce the amount of people cycling.
“The more cyclists visible on the road makes it much more safer for us.”
The group and national campaigners are also calling for the law to presume in favour of cyclists involved in collisions with motorists.