People who wear cycling helmets and other protective headgear could be in more danger of an accident, a new report claims.
Bath University researchers say this is down to people being more likely to take extra risks. They used a special computer-based simulation to study adult risk taking and record sensation-seeking behaviour.
Doctors Tim Gamble and Ian Walker divided test subjects into two separate groups. One wore baseball caps, the other donned bike helmets. Both groups had to inflate an online balloon.
Respondents were rewarded with points depending on how greatly they inflated the balloon. They risked losing their “winnings” if it burst.
The pair discovered that the helmet-wearing section was more likely to take more risks, inflating their balloon to higher levels.
Compensation studies give clue
Dr. Walker says that previous research has analysed “at-risk compensation“. He says this indicates that people’s behaviour may change when they are wearing helmets.
These could extend to being more aggressive on the American football field when making tackles or motoring differently when wearing your seatbelt.
The doctor says that this could lead to people wearing helmets, seatbelts and other such safety equipment to take risks which could end in accidents in which that equipment could not help.
It is logical that sportsmen and sportswomen experience extra aggression when wearing such equipment, says Dr. Walker.
But this is the first time that research has indicated that safety devices may drive wearers to take extra risks off the sports field.
American football helmet poser
They say the results bring into question whether helmets really do benefit people in activities such as cycling, American football and even war.
But Dr. Gamble stresses that helmets and other safety apparatus should always be worn. He just wants the overall subject of safety devices to be looked at in a different way and in less black and white terms.
Dr. Gamble says policy makers should remember that safety gear does not make wearers invulnerable as the subject is less simple than that. The study suggests that recklessness could be the end product of feeling such protection.
If this is the case, Dr. Gamble believes it could impact on various kinds of scenarios. These extend to maybe how army personnel arrive at planning decisions while donning body armour, he says.
Source: Bath University
Date Published: February 9, 2016
Author: Jonathan Brown