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Appeal court overturns helmet law conviction

An appeal court in New South Wales, Australia, has overturned the conviction of cyclist Sue Abbott, who was prosecuted for not wearing a cycle helmet.

Mrs Abbottís objections were based on her belief that wearing a helmet increases the risk of brain damage and that forcing her to wear one is a breach of her civil liberties. She argued that there was no clear evidence of their benefit and that if she fell from her bike while wearing a helmet she would be at greater risk of brain damage from diffuse axonal injury than if she fell on her bare head. She told the court a helmet could "increase angular acceleration which an oblique impulse imparts to the head, increasing the risk of damage to the brain, especially diffuse axonal injury". In other words, the helmet grips the road, twisting the head more quickly than if the skull were unprotected.

Other evidence cited a report from the National Health and Medical Research Council that warns "the wearing of helmets may result in greater rotational forces and increased diffuse brain injury".

District Court Judge Roy Ellis quashed her conviction, although he still found her offence proven.

"Having read all the material, I think I would fall down on your side of the ledger," he told Mrs Abbott. "I frankly donít think there is anything advantageous and there may well be a disadvantage in situations to have a helmet - and it seems to me that itís one of those areas where it ought to be a matter of choice."

Sun 5 Sep 2010

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