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MMfE position on helmets in Italy

MMfE position on helmets in Italy

July 2023  

To read this article in Italian click here.

Micro-Mobility for Europe is an industry coalition that aims to provide safe and sustainable transportation options for all, and support policy measures that can enhance the safety of micro-mobility riders. We call on decision-makers in the EU, national, and local authorities to prioritize safe infrastructure and promote the use of non-policy measures to encourage personal helmet use to achieve our collective Vision Zero goals and objectives, by moving as close as possible to zero severe injuries and fatalities.

While we believe that mandatory helmet laws are a good faith effort to increase rider safety, growing evidence supports that mandatory helmet laws are not proven to effectively increase safety and may have unintended consequences, including a reduction in ridership and the associated safety benefits of higher ridership.

Data from more than 16 million trips over 32 million kilometers taken in 2022 in Italy, reveals that the rate of injuries requiring medical treatment for e-scooter riders was 2.3 per million kilometers, which is 36.4% lower than e-bikes, 64.5% lower than the previous year, and 45% lower than the EU average. MMfE is working together with third parties to validate results. In addition, there was no fatal injury involving shared e-scooters. This indicates that the safety of e-scooter riders in Italy is improving as ridership grows.

As rides increase, and Italian policymakers seek to make riding safer, we recommend focusing on the key contributors to rider safety, such as reducing vehicle speed limits and road infrastructure, as studies show that mandatory helmet laws do not effectively increase rider safety. In fact, a 14-year analysis of the effects of Canada’s mandatory helmet law found that “the rate of [injury] decline was not appreciably altered on introduction of legislation”,suggesting that helmet laws alone are not sufficient to improve safety outcomes.

If Italy would move forward with the obligation for e-scooter users to wear helmets, the country will be among the first Member States in the EU that imposes such restrictions which may result in a spillover effect. While the intention may be positive, this could have a detrimental effect on the uptake of sustainable modes of transport.

Moreover, for the majority of cyclist injuries, research shows that over 80%, would not have been prevented with helmet usage. Instead, the environment in which riders operate, including the presence of motorised traffic and the quality of cycling infrastructure, plays the most crucial role in the overall risk for crashes, injury, and death. Therefore, investing in safe micro-mobility infrastructure, such as segregated cycle lanes and a bicycle network, would be more effective in improving rider safety.

Mandatory helmet laws also have the potential to reduce the number of riders, diminishing the “safety in numbers” effect. Research indicates that higher cycling mode share is associated with lower hospitalisation rates. As seen in Australia, implementing helmet mandates discourages people from riding, resulting in a decline in ridership, modal shift and the associated safety benefits.

In conclusion, we believe that mandatory helmet laws for e-scooters are contrary to the EU Commission’s goals of decarbonising urban transportation and creating safer streets. In addition, the uptake of shared micro-mobility services also benefits the uptake and safety of other modes, such as cycling. We advocate for a holistic approach that prioritises safe infrastructure and encourages helmet use through alternative policies. By adopting a safe systems approach and working collaboratively with cities and policymakers, we can create a safer and more accessible micro-mobility environment for all.

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